St Peter Tour guidato

A guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica · Things to know

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most important sights in the world. A guided tour of St. Peter’s Basilica will provide you with a lot of interesting and exciting information.

If you want to know more about St. Peter’s Basilica, a guided tour is definitely worthwhile. We give you a little taste of what a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica is like.

St. Peter’s Basilica: Facts and Curiosities

Priceless works of art await visitors to St. Peter’s Basilica, with its magnificent dome. Each work of art is a historical testimony to past cultures and tells its own story. There are no information boards inside St. Peter’s. A one-hour guided tour is recommended to learn about the history of the church and its founders. Many people do not know that this is the second basilica. Martina Kliem is one of the official tour guides in St. Peter’s and describes some of the historical events here:

Charlemagne’s Coronation

St. Peter's Porphyry of Charlemagne

Charlemagne was crowned on the round stone slab made of porphyry on December 25, 800. The church is 187 meters long – the length of two football fields. 44 altars, 778 columns and 395 statues adorn its interior, and yet it seems much smaller due to its enormous decoration. It’s hard to believe that the two marble cherubs on the right and left, above the basins filled with holy water, are two meters high!

The Pietà

Whether you are religious or not, no one can resist the allure of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Michelangelo’s Pietà is one of the most beautiful sculptures in the history of art. The Virgin Mary with the dead, unclothed Jesus on her arm was created by the great Italian High Renaissance artist when he was less than 25 years old. He traveled to the quarries of Carrara to find a suitable block of marble. He is said to have stayed there for nine months. But Michelangelo was still unknown in Rome. After the work was completed, the only person mentioned was the person who commissioned the sculpture, the Cardinal of Saint Denis. Michelangelo is said to have resented this. For this reason, the Pietà is probably the only statue that Michelangelo ever signed. If you look closely, you can see the narrow sash running across the Madonna’s chest, which is inscribed in Latin: MICHEL.A[N]GELVS BONAROTVS FLORENT[INVS] FACIEBA[T] – Michelangelo Buonarroti of Florence [made this].

The canopy over the papal altar

St. Peter's workers on the canopy

The gigantic bronze canopy under the dome is 30 meters high – a ten-story building! Gian Lorenzo Bernini created it for Pope Urban VIII over a period of nearly ten years. It was not uncommon for the construction of churches and monuments to serve the self-aggrandizement of their respective church leaders. Pope Urban VIII was one such leader. The Barberini family crest shows three bees, which are often seen in Rome. They are said to symbolize work, diligence, and the sweetness of life. However, there could be no question of frugality, as the good Maffeo squandered immense sums on his excessive building activities. Countless palaces, churches and fountains were added to the cityscape to make the Barberini immortal. All this could only be achieved through intrigue.

It is said that Peter’s successor had the bronze covering of the vestibule of the Pantheon scraped off to fill the space under the dome. From then on, the Colosseum was used as a quarry and became a kind of self-service store for other new buildings. In the end, only the northern half of the outer ring of the monumental four-story facade remained. A popular saying was born: Quod non fecerunt barbari fecerunt Barberini – what the barbarians did not do, the Barberini did.

Pope Urban VIII

Barberini coat of arms

The bees were flies!

The Barberini family came from Barberino Val d’Elsa and were actually called Tafani. Consequently, their coat of arms featured the tafani – horseflies. A pope with horseflies on his crest? The ugly flies were quickly changed to noble bees and the name Tafani to Barberini.

Urban VIII is said to have been short and talkative and to have had diplomatic skills. He was on friendly terms with Galileo Galilei. The period of his 21-year pontificate was marked, among other things, by the conflict between the Church’s claim to authority and free science. Galileo’s theories were in the forefront. Although the head of the Church was unable to stop the Inquisition, he may have saved the physicist from the stake.

Urban was considered a prime example of a nepotistic pope. He filled high positions with his relatives or long-time collaborators. Brothers, nephews, brothers-in-law, great-grandnephews, the tutor, and even the family maggiordomo became cardinals. The nepotism of that time is still very much in evidence in Italy today. The Roman people suffered greatly from the lavish extravagances of Urban VIII. In 1644, a storm of rejoicing is said to have broken out at the news of his death. He was buried in a magnificent tomb in St. Peter’s, one of Bernini’s masterpieces. What remains is the magnificent Palazzo Barberini, built by his nipoti, his nephews.

The papal throne – Cathedra Petri

Throne of the Pope - Cathedra Petri

Looking towards the apse, it becomes “German” again. Beneath Bernini’s Dove of Peace is the famous wooden chair attributed to St. Peter. The true owner, however, was Charles the Bald of the Carolingian dynasty. Like all Holy Roman Emperors, he was crowned in St. Peter’s.

The grave of Otto II and his sad end

Otto II died on December 7, 983 in Rome, where he was the only German emperor of the Holy Roman Empire to be buried in St. Peter’s Basilica. Otto was stately buried in the eastern part to the left of the entrance in the atrium in the open air! The ancient marble sarcophagus was buried underground, and the four-meter-long tomb, clad in colorful marble slabs, stood above it at ground level. Its lid, made of high-quality dark red porphyry, probably came from the tomb of Emperor Hadrian at Castel Sant’Angelo.

The monument must have had an enormous impact, not only because of the material, but also because of its dimensions, which were only granted to Roman emperors.

Like the columns and obelisks of Rome, the Roman coffins traveled. For seven centuries, German pilgrims were able to visit their emperor in St. Peter’s, until the tomb was destroyed when the basilica was rebuilt under Paul V. Carlo Fontana transformed it into a baptismal font, which still stands today in the Baptistery, the first chapel on the left after the entrance. The marble sarcophagus, on the other hand, which was buried in the ground, still serves as a fountain in a courtyard of the Quirinal Palace.

And Otto’s body? It was removed from the coffin and a notary confirmed that the small body was that of Otto II. The deceased did not even have an urn. It was used by the cooks as a container in the Quirinal. His ashes were placed in a marble coffin vaulted with stucco. Otto now rests in the Vatican grottoes near his relative Gregory V and all the others who remain embalmed in a more noble tomb. At the end of a long, inaccessible corridor, a monumental, simple stone sarcophagus stands on eagle feet. The medallion on the front bears the inscription: Otto Secundus Imperator Augustus.

No ruler has been buried in St. Peter’s since the Emperor Honorius in 423. The image above the coffin, a blessed savior between St. Peter and St. Paul, was erected by his wife: Theophanu, his better half.

The dome

St. Peter's dome

A total of 551 steps must be climbed to reach the viewing platform at the top of the dome. The view is fantastic, but the climb is also an adventure – it gets really tight and you need to be fit. It is not uncommon for euphoric tourists to experience circulatory problems or fainting, especially in the summer. And those who suffer from claustrophobia will have a problem on the last few meters of the stairs in the dome. Of course, you are not alone on the dome itself, fighting with the crowd for a piece of the view.

A good alternative for a nice view is the Castel Sant’Angelo.

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