• The Saint Peter’s Church, also called St. Peter’s
Basilica is a late Renaissance church within
Vatican City. It is Europe’s largest Christian
• It is the second church to stand above the
crypt (tomb) believed to hold the body of
Saint Peter, the first pope.
• St. Peter’s is built in the shape of a cross.
• There has been a church on this site since the
• Construction of the present basilica, over the
old Constantinian basilica, began on 18 April
1506 and was completed on 18 November
• As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the
greatest building of its age.
OLD ST. PETER’S BASILICA (Constantinian Basilica)
OLD ST. PETER’S BASILICA (Reconstructed
Nero’s Circus, Old St. Peter’s, New St. Peter’s
Approximate ground plan: Note that the base of the northern grandstand of the circus
becomes the foundation of the southern wall of Old St. Peter’s. Peter’s tomb was just
north of the road that ran along the northern side of the Circus. It became the centre
of the crossing of the naves and transepts of both the Old and New St. Peter’s.
• The first St. Peter’s Church was begun by
Constantine the Great about 325. He built the
church to celebrate his acceptance of
• The church was modeled on the Basilica, a
rectangular building used as a meeting hall by
the Romans. Four rows of columns, extending
almost the length of the church, divided it into
a nave with two aisles on either side.
• In 1452, Pope Nicholas V began to restore and
expand the church. The restoration continued
until 1506, when Pope Julius II decided to
rebuild the church completely.
• During its construction, 10 different architects
worked on St. Peter’s and changed its design.
• The first architect was Donato Bramante. He
designed a domed, perfectly symmetrical
church in the form of a Greek cross(a cross
with four arms of equal length).
1. Donato Bramante
- Bramante proposed a Greek Cross plan, the centre of which would be
surmounted by a dome slightly larger than that of the Pantheon.
2. Giuliano Da Sangallo
– He strengthened and extended the peristyle of Bramante into a series of
arched and ordered openings around the base. In his hands, the rather
delicate form of the lantern, based closely on that in Florence, became a
massive structure, surrounded by a projecting base, a peristyle and
surmounted by a spire of conic form, but the plan was simply too eclectic
to be considered.
3. Raffaello Sanzio
- The main change in Raphael's plan is the nave of five bays, with a row of
complex apsidal chapels off the aisles on either side.
4. Baldassare Peruzzi
- Maintained changes that Raphael had proposed to the internal arrangement
of the three main apses, but otherwise reverted to the Greek Cross plan
and other features of Bramante.
5. Antonio Da Sangallo The Younger
- Main practical contribution was to strengthen Bramante's piers which had
begun to crack.
– He reverted to Bramante’s original design, the Greek Cross and
converted its snowflake complexity into massive, cohesive unity.
7. Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola
Appointed by Pope Pius V as a watchdog to make sure that
Michelangelo's plans were carried out exactly after his death.
8. Giacomo Della Porta
- He subsequently altered Michelangelo’s design by adding of lion's masks
over the swags on the drum in honor of Pope Sixtus and adding a circlet of
finials around the spire at the top of the lantern, as proposed by Sangallo.
Also proposed to raise the outer dome higher above the inner one.
9. Carlo Maderno
He made the most significant contribution since Michelangelo,
because he pulled down the remaining parts of Old St. Peter's
and proceeded to transform Michelangelo's centralized
Greek-cross design into a Latin cross with a long nave.
10. Gian Lorenzo Bernini
He was regarded as the greatest architect and sculptor of
the Baroque period. Bernini's works at St. Peter's include the
baldacchino, the Chapel of the Sacrament, the plan for the
niches and loggias in the piers of the dome and the chair of St.
won Pope Julius II
Della Rovere’s design
contest for the new
proposed a Greek
Cross plan, the
centre of which
surmounted by a
dome slightly larger
than that of the
was for a basilica
in the form of a
with a short
pronaos and a
Bramante’s plan for a
balanced and restful dome
into a dynamic construction.
He put a drum(ring) at the
base of the dome that
appears to be squeezing the
dome and forcing its sides to
spring upwards. He
shortened Raphael’s nave,
but Carlo Maderno added
back the nave and added the
He made the most
since Michelangelo, because
he pulled down the
remaining parts of Old St.
Peter's and proceeded to
design into a Latin cross
with a long nave.
• This extension of the basilica was undoubtedly necessary from the point of
view of practical requirements, but it destroyed Michelangelo's great
conception and substituted something less impressive, since the great dome
can no longer be appreciated from every point of view.
• As a result of these alterations, Maderno had to design a facade which would
not detract too much from the dome and, at the same time, would be worthy
of its setting and also contain a central feature, the Benediction Loggia, to
provide a frame for the figure of the pope when he appeared in public.
• These conflicting requirements were met as far as possible by Maderno's
adaptation of a typical Roman palace facade, with decorative motives taken
from Michelangelo's works.
•The plan to provide bell towers at the ends to enframe the dome in distant
views had to be abandoned because the foundations gave trouble. The work,
including the decoration, was completed and consecrated on Nov. 18, 1626.
•The façade designed by Maderno, is 114.69
metres (376.3 ft) wide and 45.55 metres (149.4 ft)
•It is built of travertine stone, with a giant order of
Corinthian columns and a central pediment rising
in front of a tall attic surmounted by thirteen
statues: Christ flanked by eleven of
the Apostles (except Peter, whose statue is left of
the stairs) and John the Baptist.
• The church was given an impressive setting by Gian
Lorenzo Bernini, one of its architects.
• An avenue almost 1.5 kilometers long leads from the
Tiber River to the Piazza Di San Pietro (Square Of St.
Peter), a large open space in front of the church.
• A red granite obelisk (shaft) stands 26 meters high in
the piazza’s centre. It was brought to Rome from Egypt
about A.D. 37, and was moved to the piazza in 1586.
• The Piazza which was completed in 1667, contains two
fountains and two colonnades (rows of columns)
arranged in semicircles on opposite sides of the Piazza.
• The interior of the church is decorated in Baroque style.
• Bernini, who was also a sculptor, created many of its famous
features in the 1650s.
• He built the elaborate bronze baldacchino (canopy) over the main
alter, which stands beneath the dome. It closes the extremely long
sweep of the nave and is 95 Ft. high.
• As may be seen in the accompanying plan, the four principal
divisions of the basilica extend from the dome and are connected
with each other by passages behind the dome piers.
• To the right and the left of the nave lie the smaller and
lower aisles, the right of which is bordered by four lateral chapels,
the left by three chapels and the passage to the roof.
• The general decoration consists of colored marble
incrustations, stucco figures, rich gilding, mosaic decoration,
and marble figures on the pilasters, ceiling, and walls.
• The paneling of the pavement in geometric figures is of
colored marble after the designs of Giacomo della
Porta and Bernini.
• Beneath it is the Confession of St. Peter, where the body of
the Prince of Apostles reposes – the tomb of St. Peter’s.
• No chairs or pews obstruct the view; the eye roves freely over
the glittering surface of the marble pavement, where there is
room for thousands of people.
• Major axis of the piazza - 1115.4 feet.
• Minor axis of the piazza - 787.3 feet.
• Vestibule of the basilica - 232.9 feet wide, 44.2 deep, and 91.8 high.
• Height and width of the nave - 151.5 feet and 90.2 feet respectively.
• Entire length of the basilica including the vestibule - 693.8 feet.
• From the pavement of the church (measured from the Confession) to
the oculus of the lantern resting upon the dome the height - 404.8
• To the summit of the cross surmounting the lantern - 434.7 feet.
• The measurements of the interior diameter of the dome vary
somewhat, being generally computed at 137.7 feet, thus exceeding
the dome of the Pantheon by a span of 4.9 feet.
•The surface area of St. Peter's is 163,182.2 sq. feet.