St. Peter's Basilica


There are times when travelling when I just have a 'moment'. A moment in which I just feel a sense of something bigger than myself and I know that this moment is something special to cherish forever. It's something above just the normal travel giddies that I get each time we arrive at a new destination! This is what I felt at St. Peter's. So let's call this one a 'spiritual moment'. Hearing the church bells while walking around the almost empty Square was just incredible. And so was the Basilica.

St. Peter's Square and Basilica will more than likely be on your list of  'to-see' items in Rome. As it should be for several reasons. It is one of the largest churches in the world. It was co-developed by many greats, including Michelangelo and Bernini (what didn't they develop in Rome?). And it is the main Church used by the Pope. These are all incredible facts right? But there is more...so much more.

As you may or may not know, St. Peter, as in Peter the Apostle who Jesus left in charge of the Church, was crucified and buried here. Actually, he was crucified some yards away but is buried under the center of the Basilica. He was crucified by the Romans in 64 AD. He was crucified upside down on a cross by his choice because he said he was unworthy to die like Christ. Not only was it moving just to be in the vicinity of this but here's another little factoid. See the obelisk above? It is named "The Witness" as it used to stand in the center of Emperor Nero's Circus where it was a witness to hundreds of Christian deaths, including St. Peter. It is the oldest obelisk in Rome and has indeed earned the title "The Witness".


I arrived early to the Basilica on the Sunday morning of our departure. Van was worn out and stayed in bed and I was ok to go alone. Like I've said before, I grew up Catholic and Van is not, so I think being here was much more important to me. I knew the Pope gave a blessing at noon so I hightailed it over as early as I could. I arrived at 8:15 to a non-existent line and pretty much peace and quiet, except for the church bells which added to the moment. And the weather? Perfect.


I am assuming the chairs were set up for the Pope's blessing later in the day. I so wish I could have stuck around for that!




"The Witness" continuing it's duty

Upon entering the Basilica, Michelangelo's Pieta is immediately to your right. Another one of those masterpieces that I studied throughout school. It was truly unbelievable to lay eyes on, even if it was from a distance. The statue is now protected behind bullet proof glass because of a mad person who came after it with a hammer some years ago. Thanks for ruining the experience for us buddy. The Pieta is a marble carving of Mary holding Jesus after he was taken down from the cross. It is a beautiful and moving piece of artwork, completed in 1499.



Just standing in the nave of the Church, you are immediately taken aback by how massive this place is. Completed in 1626, it is truly an incredible masterpiece. Just take in the size and compare the size of the people to their surroundings. If you look above the altar in the center, the inscription letters around the dome measure at 6.6ft tall!! It is truly mesmerizing.



The Dome of the Basilica is also a masterpiece in itself...


St. Peter's remains are housed underneath the pillared alter several floors below. I actually made it down into the crypt but was greeted by an Italian guard halfway through the rooms who grumbled that I was not to be down there. Oops! So he escorted me back up to the surface and I spent my remaining time leisurely strolling and gazing at this incredible Church (and getting the mean eye from the guard).







As I left the Basilica, I decided to talk a walk back to our apartment rather than taking a cab. I just wanted to have a space of calm and reflection before the hustle and bustle of our departure back to England. I reflected on having been where hundreds of years of Christian and Catholic history was made. Having been where St. Peter, Jesus' disciple was crucified. It was a moment I will hold dear forever. It truly felt like a sort of Catholic pilgrimage to me.




Entry to St. Peter's Basilica is free, however the lines build quickly. Arrive first thing, between 7:30 (when it opens) and 8:00 for the least amount of waiting. Take your time and just wander around the Church. Read the history before entering so that you can hold a greater appreciation for the structure. And if your lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the Pope himself!

A quick Happy Birthday to my little brother Daniel! Hope 28 is amazing!

25 comments

  1. I just remember I couldn't get over how big it was! Beautiful pictures!

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  2. It was soooo huge! And I have been in some big churches! But this one just blew me away....

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  3. Wowww! Me too! Beautiful pics Jamie!

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  4. It really is a must see! And so much more special when it's not crowded :)

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  5. I've never seen pictures of the Basilica so empty! Definitely worth getting up early for!

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  6. Oh it was amazing! I truly felt like the only person out in the square. I was so happy I got up early and went....it was a moment I will never forget!

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  7. wow that must have been quite an experience! I love to think about all the people who have stood in the exact place I am...

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  8. It's been one of my most favorite travel moments! I'm just in awe of places like this!

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  9. Thanks for the history lesson Jamie! I didn't know those facts about the obelisk. Very interesting, even for a non-believer! I was totally in awe of the statues at the roof line. Some of my favorite travel photos are from that very courtyard. What is it about the sky over the Basillica? It's always this stunning shade of blue. Lovely.

    V
    Life+1

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  10. sounds [and looks] like this was an amazing experience! it's all gorgeous, but the obelisk is especially interesting to me. I'm fascinated by ancient Egypt, and to see a piece of their culture that was brought to Europe [or at least replicated] by the Romans, and now with the cross on top in the middle of the square... it certainly has been "witness" to a lot of history.

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  11. That photo with the empty chairs is just incredible! I love it! This church is really beautiful, too. I'm not Catholic, or especially religious at all, actually, but I would have wanted to be there for the Pope's blessing, too, just for the experience!

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  12. Your photos are so beautiful. I visited while I was in Rome in October, but unfortunately we went in the middle of the day and the line was insane so we didn't go in!

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  13. This is truly an amazing piece of art! I'm not religious myself - but these are fascinating to look at regardless of what you believe in! Thanks for sharing this beauty!

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  14. I really enjoyed reading this. I had a completely different experience and reaction when I visited but it's nice reading another perspective and makes me realize how unique, personal and interesting each travel experience can be to an individual.

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  15. Aren't the facts amazing? I just can't think of any other structure that has been and still is a witness to so much history!! The blue skies were amazing.....It was cloudy the day before but when I needed it to be a beautiful sky, it was :)

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  16. I am almost certain this obelisk is from Egypt.....Rome actually has several from Egypt! Isn't it amazing? Paris also has one, and it took 6 years to transport it from Egypt to Paris.....crazy!!

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  17. Meeee tooo!! I haven't been a practicing Catholic in years but to go and see where all of these structures were was pretty cool. I'm sure I had 100 flashcards on the Vatican alone back in the day :)

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  18. I think you start to gain a higher appreciation for thing safter seeing similar structures (does that make sense? haha). I have seen so many cathedrals in England but the Basilica was so different and just massive. It blew my mind!

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  19. The line was crazy for us the day before. And even when I left the Basilica the lone had already become insane! I am so glad I went early.....it was a cool experience :)

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  20. Awesome!! If you have any questions about anything, just shoot me an email!

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  21. The Basilica was just a massive artwork in itself. I couldn't get over the scale....truly incredible.

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  22. Isn't it amazing how we all can experience the same places in totally different ways? Reading other travel blogs make me realize the same thing you mentioned....travelling can be so personal! I always want a sort of emotional experience from all of my travels, but sometimes that can't happen when you are in a crowd full of people!

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  23. I went here in December 2010. I was in awe at the beauty of the place. I am not a Catholic, but I entered many a church while in Rome and could feel the spiritual atmosphere created by such beautiful buildings. You are lucky to have had the place basically to yourself. We took a bus the wrong direction and got there midday. The crowds were insane, but I still felt the calmness inside. As I did in other small churches in small piazzas. I have been raised Mormon and still belong to the faith. We build sacred temples that are ornate and wonderful, and the ceilings of the catholic churches all remind me of how our ornate temples look. It just goes to show that God is everywhere on this earth, doesn't it?

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  24. I bet the mass at Notre Dame was great! We visited there recently and I loved the feel of the church! God is definitely everywhere!

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