St. Peter`s Basilica in Rome was built on the site where in ancient Rome there was a circus for gladiatorial games. Here in 67, the Apostle Peter, who was closest to Jesus Christ during his lifetime, was executed. Jesus gave him the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and according to Catholic tradition, the Pope is the vicar of St. Peter on earth.
The first basilica was erected by the emperor Constantine in the place where the apostle Peter was crucified and buried back in 327 A.D. By 15 century the basilica became very decrepit and in 1506 the Pope Julius II ordered to erect the largest Christian cathedral, which had to emphasize the importance of Rome as the center of Christian world.
St. Peter`s was built by several great Renaissance architects: first Bramante, then Raphael, then Michelangelo. The dome was built by the architects Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana. In 1626, St. Peter`s Basilica was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII, and it became the largest Christian church on earth. Before that, for 1089 years, the largest cathedral was Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.
The dome of the cathedral rises to 119 meters. Its diameter is 42 meters. By capacity, it is the largest cathedral on earth – it can accommodate up to 60 thousand people. Absolutely everyone notes that the decoration of the cathedral is magnificent, which is not typical for Catholic churches. In addition to the tomb of St. Peter, the church contains the relics of St. John Chrysostom, as well as many relics, including the spearhead that pierced Jesus on the cross (it came here from Constantinople).
Michelangelo was commissioned with the task to paint the cathedral. You can see the following inscription in two meters letters around the inside of the dome: «You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven».
The main altar of the cathedral is below the dome, above the grave of the apostle Peter. St. Peter`s baldachin or canopy designed by Bernini is over the altar. Its height is 29 meters.
To the right from the entrance you can see the «Pieta» or «The Lamentation of Christ». It was one of the earliest works of Michelangelo. He created it in the age of 24. Besides, you can see there a great number of other sculptures, pictures and frescoes.
If you have the strength, then you must definitely climb the dome of the cathedral. Of course, this is not easy, but the magnificent view of old Rome, opening from the dome of the cathedral, is impressive. At your feet are St. Peter`s Square, the Vatican palaces, the Angel Castle, the Tiber River and many other sights of Rome. After visiting the dome, you should definitely go to the Vatican Museum. This is the largest museum in the world, and Michelangelo`s Sistine Chapel is simply amazing.