Everything You Need To Know About St Peter’s 

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St Peter’s Basilica is the most holy spot in Vatican City, attracting over 10 million pilgrims annually.

It is the most visited Vatican site for its deep religious significance and architectural beauty, designed by the world’s famous Renaissance architects!

Visitors planning to explore the Basilica for the first time must know everything, from the Basilica’s opening hours and tickets to the top highlights of the Church.

Read further to discover a detailed guide with updated 2024 information to plan the best visiting itinerary for you and your family! 

Why is St Peter’s Basilica so Famous?

Image: Npr.org

The Basilica is a major attraction for people of all religions from all over the world. Why is it so?

St Peter’s Basilica is the most majestic church, designed by famous Renaissance architects like Michelangelo, Donato Bramante, and ten others!

It also plays an important role in the Catholic Church and is the only place in Rome where you can expect to find the Pope regularly.

The Basilica is decorated with the most ornate artwork, including Michelangelo’s only signed masterpiece, La Pieta.

It also has the tallest dome of all churches in the world, offering the most breathtaking view of the surrounding attractions, especially the Roman Forum!

At the center of the Basilica stands the masterful Baldacchino by Bernini, unlike any other sculpture you will ever see in Rome! 

Because of all these reasons, the Basilica has become a famous attraction among all artists and pilgrims flocking to Vatican City, and is a must-see!

What to see inside the Basilica- Top Highlights

The Basilica is massive, having 11 chapel rooms, 25 altar spaces, a stunning dome, and even the Papal Tombs!

First-time visitors on a time crunch might not have three hours to spare to see all the parts.

To make it easier for you, here is a list of the best artworks and activities to do inside the Basilica when visiting! 

1. The Towering Circular Dome

The most eye-catching attraction of the Basilica is the Dome, the tallest from the outside and every inch painted from the inside!

The Roman Pantheon inspired the basic shape of the dome, and it is divided into two levels.

The first level looks at the ceiling paintings from up close, which cannot be seen from the floor since it is 118 meters tall up to the lantern.

The level also offers access to the roof of the Basilica, where you can take a short break and have a refreshing drink or snack from the eatery at the top. 

The topmost level of the Dome, which is the Cupola, showcases the most stunning view of the Vatican City from 137 meters above the ground!

2. Michelangelo La Pieta

Your visit is incomplete without seeing the emotional La Pieta, crafted by Michelangelo between 1499 and 1500.

It stands in the Chapel of the Pieta, showcasing the moving scene of the crucified body of Jesus lying on his mother’s lap.

Pilgrims and sculptors worldwide flock to see the La Pieta because of its life-like appearance.

Besides Michelangelo’s St Peter’s Basilica Dome, the Pieta is his favorite work in the city and his only existing signed work!

3. The Bernini Baldacchino

The massive canopy-like structure of Bernini’s Baldacchino is the most iconic and unique art piece of the century, made entirely of bronze!

It stands over the holy Papal Altar at a height of 95 feet, commissioned by Pope Urban VIII.

To honor Pope Urban’s Barberini family, the Baldacchino is carved with the Coat of Arms, having Heraldic Bees all over its surface.

The top of the Baldacchino looks like natural cloth because of its bronze folds and the hanging tassels!

At the top are angels holding St Peter’s Keys to the Gates of Heaven and the famous Papal Tiara. 

4. St Peter’s Bronze Statue 

This simple statue in the Basilica is a favorite among all pilgrims, as they come to pay reverence by touching the statue’s right foot.

Arnolfo di Cambio constructed this masterpiece in the 5th century, and the saint is depicted in a sitting position.

He holds out his right hand to bless all the Basilica visitors.

This statue is standing in front of the right main pillar, surrounding the Baldacchino.

5. The Monument of Pope Alexander VII

One of the spookiest sculptures of the Basilica is the Monument of Pope Alexander VII by Bernini in 1690.

It shows the massive figure of Pope Alexander in the center, surrounded by his favorite values- justice, charity, truth, and prudence, depicted as women.

What makes this massive figure so scary is the depiction of death as a skeleton at the base, holding an hourglass in hand.

The monument has deep symbolism, showing the death of the Pope and the hold of Catholicism over the world.

You will find this monument in the left transept of the Basilica, opposite the Sacred Heart Altar. 

6. The Relics of the Saints

Don’t forget to see the sacred relics of saints embedded in the pillars surrounding the Papal Altar.

You will find the remains of St. Veronica lying below the chapel of Veronica’s Veil, below her statue.

Similarly, the other three pillars hold the remains of St. Longinius, St. Helen, and St. Andrew, which are marked by their statues. 

During the holy week, these remains are displayed, making it the best visiting time for all pilgrims! 

7. The Papal Tombs

The Papal Tombs, also known as the Vatican Grottoes, lay 3 to 11 feet below the Basilica.

Visitors will be guided through the remains of 91 Popes and other famous Roman people from the royal family.

You will also discover more information on Rome’s ancient art by observing all the 4th-century wall frescos covering the Tomb areas.

You will find the entrance to the Vatican Grottoes under the Statue of St. Andrews, at the first main pillar on the left.  

Check out our article on What to see in St Peter’s Basilica to discover more about the beautiful artwork inside! 

St Peter’s Basilica Tickets 

You can explore St Peter’s Basilica for free since it is a church; however, you need tickets to ascend the Dome and explore Papal Tombs. 

Visitors can buy these tickets from the ticket office of the Basilica next to the elevator on the right of the entrance.

We don’t recommend getting your tickets at the entrance, as around 50,000 visitors arrive here daily, and only a limited number of tickets are available.

You must book your tickets online in advance to avoid the inconvenience of long queues and find a spot among the limited visitors allowed to access the Papal Tombs.

The standard St Peter’s Basilica tickets with audio guide access to the Dome for adults between 4 and 99 years for 3 hours cost €29.

Visitors looking for a complete experience of the Basilica should get the St Peter’s Basilica Guided Tour with access to the Dome and Papal Tombs for adults between 17 and 99 years, which costs €42.

Children 4 to 16 years old can access this experience for a discounted price of €36!

Kids 3 years and below can enjoy both of these experiences for free!

Information required to plan the best experience at the Basilica

To make a comfortable visit to the Basilica, you must have information regarding the details of your visit before you leave home.

Here are the updated timings, dress code details, and other essential details to help you plan early and avoid disappointments! 

St Peter’s Basilica Opening Hours

The Basilica opens at 7 am throughout the year.

It closes at 7 pm from April to September and 6.30 pm in the other months. 

You must leave the Basilica 30 minutes before closing time on all days. 

On Papal Audience Wednesdays, the Basilica opens in the afternoon at 12.30 pm. 

The Papal Tombs, Dome Climb, and the Sacristy and Treasury Museum follow different timings.

Check out our St Peter’s Basilica Opening Hours article to discover their exact timings and other closure dates! 

The best time to visit the Basilica

The Basilica is least crowded from 7 am to 9 am when it opens to the public.

We recommend arriving slightly earlier to line up, especially during the peak tourist season beginning from April to September!

If you cannot make it in the morning, we suggest you arrive after 4 pm in the evening, as most of the tourist crowd leaves by this time. 

You will find the least crowd at the Basilica on Tuesdays and Thursdays and the most on weekends and Wednesdays. 

St Peter’s Basilica dress code

Since the Basilica stands in the Holy Vatican City, you must follow a strict dress code when visiting.

Men and women must wear modest clothing that covers their shoulders, midriff, and knees to show respect.

In the Basilica, men are not allowed to wear caps and hats.

We recommend you wear firm and comfortable walking shoes such as sneakers or sandals so you can easily climb the narrow steps to the dome. 

You can buy cover-up clothing if you are not dressed as per the rules before entering the city. 

Rules and Regulations

Photography and videography are allowed inside the Basilica without professional equipment like stands or lights. 

Sharp objects, large bags, and other weapons are prohibited inside the Basilica.

You cannot carry food items or drinks, including water, to the Basilica. 

Visitors with such items might have to leave them behind at the ticket office or in the cloakroom of the Vatican Museum.

Pets are also not allowed inside the Church.

You should maintain silence to show respect to the sacred mass services happening in the Basilica while visiting.

Avoid touching any artwork and causing damage to its exterior. 

Getting to the Basilica 

You can quickly get to the Basilica by taking a metro to the Ottaviano. S Pietro metro station, which is a 12-minute walk away.

Visitors traveling from Roma Termini can hop on the buses 64 and 40, which get you 2 minutes away from the Basilica.

You can also board Tram number 19 to reach the Basilica, which stops at Piazza del Risorgmento. 

Fun Facts about St Peter’s Basilica Vatican City!

The Basilica has been standing for centuries, and the underground area and its dome have many exciting stories to tell.

Here are some exciting facts about the Basilica so you can show off your knowledge to your friends or family!

  • The Basilica stands over the martyred remains of St Peter’s Basilica, which is in the Vatican Necropolis.
  • Before this Basilica was built, an old St. Peter’s Basilica built by Emperor Constantine stood for almost 1,200 years in the same spot.
  • The Basilica took 120 years to complete because of the continuous changes in the Dome’s design. 
  • St Peter’s Basilica still stands as the largest Church in the world today, having the world’s tallest Dome!
  • Most of the bronze used in Bernini’s Baldacchino was stolen from the Roman Pantheon’s Dome and Portico.
  • The St. Peter’s bronze statue in the Basilica has lost the shape of all his right foot’s toes because of the pilgrim’s continuous touching.
  • You can see the remains of Pope Innocent XI open on display!
  • The paintings decorating the walls of the Basilica are glass mosaics. 

Insider Tips for Visiting St Peter’s Basilica

Here are some insider tips to help you have a much better experience at the Basilica of St Peter!

  • Don’t carry a wide-angle camera lens when going to the top of the dome since a fence obstructs the view. 
  • Begin exploring the Vatican Grottoes after seeing the Basilica since the entrance is outside. You don’t need to stand in the entry queue twice.
  • Visitors should always wear lightweight clothing when visiting the Papal Tombs because the temperature here is always high to ensure the space is not damaged.
  • The dome is not recommended for wheelchair users since it has a very narrow staircase at the top. You can ascend to the first level by elevator.
  • If you plan to visit the Basilica after the Vatican Museum, climb up to the dome before exploring the Basilica. This ensures you don’t miss out since the Dome closes much before the Basilica.

FAQs on St Peter’s Basilica Guide

1. Do I need tickets for St Peter’s Basilica?

2. Who designed the Basilica?

3. What is the best way to see St Peter’s Basilica?

4. What is the best time of day to visit St Peter’s Basilica?

5. How long does it take to climb to the top of the Basilica?

6. Which is the most famous artwork of the Basilica?

7. What is the dress code of the Basilica?

8. What is the best way to reach the Basilica? 

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Featured Image: Robert Schmalle / Getty Images

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