With its 23,000 m2, of which 15,160 can be walked on, with a height of 133.30 m and a length of 218 m, the Basilica of San Pietro won first place in the ranking of the largest Catholic churches in the world. Since 1626 it is the heart of the Christian faith, the spiritual destination of tourists and faithful from all over the world.
The primacy is ours
The record, for a short period, had been taken from the Basilica of Notre Dame de la Paix in Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast. The Ivorian basilica extends for a total of about 30,000 m2 but the interior is by itself, so to speak, 7,989. He beats, however, St. Peter for the height: counting the cross on the dome reaches 158 m, against the 133 of the Italian church.
As for capacity, there is no history. 60,000 people at the same time manage to stay in St. Peter’s Basilica, while Our Lady of Peace can accommodate 7,000 faithful in the aisles and 11,000 in other annexed areas.
The dome that Michelangelo donated to St. Peter’s Basilica
The height of the Basilica gives it the dome, emblem of the entire architectural complex. About 133 m high for a diameter of 41.50. You can reach the top, up to the golden lantern, making steps on 537 steps. The approximately 14,000 tons estimated for the entire dome are supported by four huge pillars. Over 800 men worked hard to make it come to an end in 1593. It was built by Giacomo della Porta, on projects by Michelangelo, later revised by other architects in just two years.
The exterior of Maderno and Bernini
The external façade of the Basilica, built between 1607 and 1614, is about 114 meters wide and 54.44 meters high. It includes two side clocks and two statues depicting St. Peter and St. Paul, while those of the other 11 apostles with Jesus and John the Baptist are lined up on the balustrade.
The square in front, instead, is the work of the great Gian Lorenzo Bernini. 115 meters wide and 54 meters high, the baroque square accommodates 284 columns, arranged on 4 rows, and 88 pillars. The 140 statues of saints stand out on the architraved colonnade.
A few words about the construction of St. Peter’s Basilica
In 318 AD the emperor Constantine decided to have a Constantinian Basilica built on the Vatican Hill in Honor of St. Peter. His will soon became reality. Thus, in 319 work began on the first basilica, consecrated in 326 and completed in 349 AD However, it came down in the time of Pope Paul V.
Only 1200 years later the Pope of the period, Julius II, decided to follow the wake of Constantine and entrusted the project for the construction of a new Basilica, on the same ground as the previous one, to Donato Bramante. The names of the architects and artists of the Italian renaissance who collaborated with it made their skin crawl: Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, Sangallo, Maderno. The value of the Basilica and all the works preserved there is invaluable. The first stone, which dates back over 100 years, was laid in 1506. It was definitively rededicated in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII.