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mike walker | profile | all galleries >> Travel >> Europe - October, 2008 >> The Vatican tree view | thumbnails | slideshow

The Vatican

The Basilica of Saint Peter (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), officially known in Italian as the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is "the greatest of all churches of Christendom". Catholic tradition holds that Saint Peter's tomb is below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction on the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed in 1626.

According to the traditional story, Peter was executed in the year 64 A.D. during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. His execution was one of the many martyrdoms of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome. He was said to have been crucified head downwards, by his own request, near the obelisk in the Circus of Nero. This obelisk now stands in Saint Peter's Square and is revered as a "witness" to Peter's death. Old St. Peter's Basilica was the fourth century church begun by the Emperor Constantine between 326 and 333 AD. This church had been built over the small shrine believed to mark the burial place of St. Peter.

By the end of the 15th century, having been neglected during the period of the Avignon Papacy, the old basilica was in bad repair. It appears that the first pope to consider rebuilding, or at least making radical changes was Pope Nicholas V (1447 55). Many renowned architects contributed to the design and construction of the basilica during the 121 years of its construction, including Bramante, Sangallo, Michelangelo, Giacomo della Porta, Fontana, Maderno and Bernini. The concept of the dome was inspired by the Roman Pantheon, and in Bramante's original design was symetrical like the Pantheon dome, but was changed to an ovoid design by Michelangelo.

See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Peter's_Basilica for more information.

For more pictures of The Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica, see my Vatican 2007 gallery at: http://www.pbase.com/lmwalker/the_vatican_062007
basilica di san pietro as seen from castel sant'angelo
basilica di san pietro as seen from castel sant'angelo
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