Welcome to Vatican City, the smallest country in the world! A trip to Rome just isn’t complete without spending time within the walls of this tiny, 100 acre country. For many, Vatican City is a highlight of their Roman vacation, yet they have only one day to explore this incomparable, beyond-words, city-country. And so describes our own Vatican City experience!
Come along with us for our whirlwind one-day tour within the walls of Vatican City. First stop is the Papal Basilica of St. Peter. Mere words cannot describe the incredible, ornate, gilded scenario that unfolds immediately upon walking through the massive front doors of this Italian Renaissance church. But perhaps a few photos will!
Glimpses Inside St. Peter’s Basilica
This papal enclave is the hallmark of the Catholic religion, and perhaps one of the most revered. It is where popes have worshiped for centuries, and where renown Renaissance artists the likes of Raphael, Bernini and Michelangelo, have created stunning masterpieces.
Dedicated to St. Peter, the basilica sits upon the site where the apostle is thought to have been crucified and buried. The basilica’s first stones were laid in 1506. It then took another 100+ years to complete. No surprise with all that incredible, masterful 16th century detail!
Contained within the basilica’s walls are numerous intricate, ornately decorated alcoves, chapels and alters, many of which contain the bodies, remains or relics of deceased popes.
Walk past Blessed Pope John XXIII, whose embalmed remains are encased in glass for all to experience. He is only the third pope ever to have been bestowed this honor.
Stand before the crossing of the transepts. Soak in the dazzling display of 16th century artwork spread spread before you, gilded gold domes above you and marbled floors beneath you. It’s almost incomprehensible just how massive St. Peter’s Basilica is, how much marble and gold dominate the architecture, how many artists have left their mark within these walls.
Bernini’s Grand Baldacchino
Bernini’s grand and glorious Baldacchino stands tall above the shrine of St. Peter, his tomb buried beneath the alter. Its spiraling columns lead one’s eyes upwards, all the way up into Michelangelo’s intricately designed dome set high above the Baldacchino.
This monumental bronze canopy is centrally and prominently located within the intersecting transepts and serves as a beacon to all who enter the basilica of the significance of this space.
Step back for a wide-angle view. The immense size and ornate detailing draws in the eye, impressing upon everyone the importance of the Baldacchino’s position within the basilica.
Michelangelo’s marble masterpiece, Pieta, captures the final moments of Christ, as depicted by the Virgin Mary cradling his body shortly after his crucifixion and removal from the cross.
Carved between 1498 and 1500 from a single slab of Carrara marble, Pieta is the only work Michelangelo is known to have signed. He was only 24 at the time.
Grand Chapels, Frescos & Intricate Statues
No matter where one moves within St. Peter’s Basilica, there is sure to be a fresco that catches the eye, a statue that impresses, a moment that reaches deep within one’s inner core.
From intricately carved statues and dizzying domes with gilded gold leaf ceilings, to vivid frescos and vast amounts of patterned marble flooring, it’s no wonder why so many people make the pilgrimage to the Papal Basilica of St. Peter.
Within alcoves and dedicated chapels, it is quickly apparent how well loved this pinnacle of Roman Catholic religion is, with its powerful religious status as well as its status as a reigning domicile of Renaissance and Baroque art.
Stand before the Chapel of St. Sebastian, where the remains of Blessed John Paul II are entombed within. Pause to reflect upon this moment inside St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s hard not to be moved when within the walls this most reverent of places in Rome!
Our St. Peter’s Basilica experience was lead by the wonderful guide provided by our Walks of Italy Pristine Sistine Vatican Tour. Splurge for a guided tour especially if you only have one day to experience Vatican City. You’ll be happy you did! This tour also included early access to the Sistine Chapel and a guided tour of the Vatican Museums. Money well spent for our limited time within Vatican City.
Have You Been to St. Peters Basilica?
Good bye St. Peter’s Basilica! Experiencing the vast, incredible, and most reverent Papal Basilica of St. Peter was the culmination of our day in Vatican City, yet the beginnings of an experience that will remain with us forever.
How about you? Have you been to St. Peter’s Basilica? Were you as moved as we were? Do share your favorite moments within!
Read more about our experiences during our one-day tour of Vatican City at:
- Lasting Impressions Inside Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel
- Favorite Photographic Moments Inside the Museums of Vatican City
- Vatican City in One Day – 7 Top Tips To Maximize Your Time
Read more about why we chose Walks of Italy for our tour at: 5 Favorite Reasons to Explore Rome With Walks of Italy.
All images by C. Biederman.