tickitaly.com - sightseeing, not queueing.

Booking tours of St Peter's, the Vatican

Tickitaly are also official agents for the Vatican and offer Vatican tickets as well as both group and private Vatican tours. You may also be interested in our FAQ page where we attempt to answer all your questions on visiting the Vatican.

Book Vatican tickets Book Vatican tours

[Back to main menu for Vatican visitor information]

St. Peter's Basilica

Work started on The Basilica of St Peter, (more officially the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano) in 1506 to a design by Bramante. This principal shrine of the Catholic Church, the Vatican's own cathedral, was to replace the increasingly dilapidated cathedral built here in the fourth century by Constantine. The site was enormously significant of course: tradition (though not the New Testament) has it that this was both the crucifixion and burial place of the martyred St Peter, Bishop of Rome, one of the 12 disciples, and the first Pope. The Bible has Jesus avowing that Peter is the rock on which he would build his church, making the foundation of the Vatican and Papal authority here all the more significant.

Such an important church had to be big, and St Peter's is enormous. The largest church in Christendom, covering 5.7 acres and holding some 60,000 people. The building was finished in 1626 (though there have of course been subsequent alterations, such as the removal of the bell towers). Strangely, this enormous edifice is actually the second-most important basilica in Rome. The Pope's ecclesiastical seat is the Basilica of St John Lateran, but St Peter's size and location makes it the recognised theatre for most Papal ceremonies (and it does of course lie within the Vatican City).

Bramante's plan had the church laid out as a Greek cross, rising to a central dome. An elderly Michelangelo oversaw the starting of the dome before his death in 1564, and this work was finished by Vignola and Giacome della Porta. Carlo Maderno took over in 1605, adulterating Bramante's design by stretching the church into a Latin cross layout. The advantage for Pope Paul V was that this squeezed in more worshippers (and it more closely followed the footprint of Constantine's church) but it certainly threw the building out of harmony and balance - one example being that the dome was now not visible from the piazza. Much interior work was completed by Bernini (1598-1680) who enlivened the building with the exuberant decoration of the Italian Baroque style.

Before you head inside, please be sure to be properly dressed. This is a church first, and that means no shorts or bare shoulders. Once inside, there are certain sights to look out for. We find Michelangelo's Pieta sculpture, a delicately executed masterpiece; Arnolfo di Cambio's bronze statue of St Peter (its right foot polished by the kisses of pilgrims); there is Bernini's massive bronze Baldacchino (a Baroque triumph or a vulgar monument to the grotesque depending on your taste). The piers supporting the dome feature reliefs depicting the Basilica's major relics - the lance of St Longinus, which pierced Christ's side; St Veronica's handkerchief, which wiped the face of the dying Jesus (and now holds his image) and so forth. We have Bernini's cattedra, which encase's St Peter's chair in an ornated marble throne, the tombs of Urban VIII and Paul III and Bernini's monument to Alexander VII.

But many of us will simply be looking up. The dome is stunning. High above the (supposed) burial place of St Peter, it has a diameter of 44 metres. Gaze at this and realise that the words inscribed within the lower level of the dome are themselves six feet high. You can take the trip up to the roof and dome (vertigo permitting) and look down into the church ... an awesome sight.


Why Tickitaly?

Based in Italy for 15+ years. Local knowledge, local contacts. We're here to help.
Transparency. All tickets are full-entrance with no extras to pay!
Availability - we'll often get you in when availability elsewhere is exhausted.
Trust - we've been working with suppliers and guides for ever! Over 10,000 reviews with an average of almost 5 out of 5!


We use industry standard Stripe for all-secure payments.

You'll be charged nothing until we have confirmed your tickets and tours.

All prices are displayed in full - there are no additional charges 'on-site' and you will be arriving with the confidence of carrying fully-paid tickets.