The Art and design in the Basilicas is Amazing

Trip Start Sep 05, 2011
Trip End Sep 27, 2011

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Where I stayed
Hotel Ponte Sisto Rome
Read my review - 4/5 stars
What I did
Tour the Sistine Chapel
Toured St. Peter's Basilica and several other Basilicas which were beautiful

Flag of Italy  , Latium,
Monday, September 19, 2011

Today was another full day with a visit to St. Peter's Basilica, Basillica of St. John Lateran, the Basilica of Mary Major and St. Peter in Chains Church. There is a little information on each place below and links to further information. The videos I have put in do give a better idea of the size of some of the Basilicas, St. Peter's being the largest.  They are immense, with main Domes and Aspe and many side Domes on the Naves (if you look at the picture of St. Peter's below you can see on the left the Basilica with the large main Dome and then two white colored domes to each side and three small domes on each side in the front of that). You may have difficulty when looking at the pictures to tell where one Basilica or Church starts and the other ends.  I have put picture of the most decorative door at the start of each and marked it in the little title I put on it so if you miss the changeover the first time go around again.  The videos really do show well.  I wish I had gotten a video of St. Peter's the way I did St. John Lateran - it really does show how elaborate the decoration is and how it all fits together.  St. John Lateran was, in fact, my favorite.   The entry is rather plain with statues and columns being the main decoration, but as you go towards the front where the Canopy, Confessio, Altar and Main Dome are located, it becomes very, very ornate.  Only the front of the Basilicas are used for church services and the seating is portable as they were not intended to be churches, but meeting places where people would stand and it would be filled.  Do look at the videos after the pictures or even before the slideshow to get a feel for the places.  Remember to click on the little square at the bottom right to get full screen video.  I have to say that the pictures and the video are not nearly as good as the originals and if anyone wants to see the originals I am open to showing them.  The resolution is so much higher and the colors so much sharper.  You will have to exit the slideshow if you look at it first and click on each video separately.  

I was planning to go back to the square for dinner but the wind was really blowing and it had started to rain so I had something in my room and packed.  I have been so lucky with the weather that I could not complain.   I had to be up at 7:30 for breakfast and  the trip to the airport as it is some distance and the flight leaves at l:00 p.m. so have to be there by 11:00.  This is my last night in Rome but I have seen a lot and give full credit to my guide Flavia and my driver Andre.  They sure know how to get around Rome.  

St.  Peter's Basilica

is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter's was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter's is not a cathedral - that honor in Rome goes to St. John Lateran.St. Peter's Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter - the apostle who is considered the first pope - was crucified and buried. St. Peter's tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Originally founded by Constantine in 324, St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.
Click here for more information on the history of St. Peter's

Aerial View of St. Peter's Basilica
Aerial view of St. Peter's Basilica, the spiritual center of Catholicism.Image  Google Earth.

Facade of St. Peter's Basilica

The monumental facade of St. Peter's Basilica.

A really good video - looks at the whole of St. Peter's click here   

If you are really interested, you can see the Beatification ceremony of St. Paul II which starts out with a helicopter view of St. Peter's Square with all the people waiting -  you get a real idea of the size of St. Peter's.  The whole video is 2 1/2 hours long so depending on what you are doing you may just want to watch the first part to see the layout of St. Peter's.  Anyway, it can be found here


The Basilica of St. John Lateran is the oldest and first among the great patriarchal basilicas of Rome, Italy.  The Basilica of St. John Lateran is also a cathedral and not just any cathedral - it is the cathedral of the bishop of Rome, i.e., the Pope.  Contrary to what might be easily assumed, St. Peter's Basilica is not the cathedral of Rome.  For more information click here.  

Basilica of Saint Mary Major 

This is one of the five great ancient basilicas of Rome.  Its 18th century exterior conceals one of the best preserved Byzantine interiors in the city.  

Santa Maria Maggiore stands on the site of a temple to the goddess Cybele. According to a 13th-century legend, the first church was built here by Pope Liberius (352-66), on the site of an apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The legend has it that the Virgin appeared to Pope Liberius and the patrician Giovanni Patrizio on August 4, 352 (or 358), instructing them to build a church on the Esquiline Hill. That night, the floor plan was outlined by a miraculous snowfall.

Archaeological evidence, on the other hand, indicates that the church was probably first built in the early 400s and completed under Pope Sixtus III (432-440). This was a time when churches dedicated to Mary were beginning to spring up all over the empire, prompted by an increasingly popular devotion to the Virgin and the official acceptance of her title "Theotokos" (Mother of God) at the Council of Ephesus in 431.The church has had many names over the years: first Santa Maria della Neve (St. Mary of the Snow) after the snowfall, then Santa Maria Liberiana after Pope Liberius. After the basilica obtained a relic of the Holy Crib, it was called Santa Maria Del Presepe (St. Mary of the Crib). It was finally named Santa Maria Maggiore (St. Mary Major) because it is the largest of the 26 churches in Rome dedicated to the Virgin Mary.Santa Maria Maggiore was fully restored and renovated in the 18th century - the facade and most of the interior decorations date from this period. Today, the basilica is served by Redemptorist and Dominican fathers and remains very popular with pilgrims and tourists alike.

St. Peter in Chains

San Pietro in Vincoli (Saint Peter in Chains) is a minor basilica in Rome that houses St. Peter's chains and Michelangelo's famous Moses statue.
HistoryThe basilica was first built in the middle of the 5th century to house the relic of the chains that bound Saint Peter while imprisoned in Jerusalem, given to Pope Leo I by Empress Eudoxia (wife of Emperor Valentinian III).According to legend, when the pope held them next to the chains from of Peter's first imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison in Rome, the two chains miraculously fused together.The basilica has undergone several restorations and rebuildings, including a restoration by Pope Adrian I, a rebuilding by Pope Sixtus IV and another by Pope Julius II. There was also a renovation in 1875. Some modernizations were made at that time.

Michelangelo's Moses statue (1515). Photo Creative Commons License Prasenberg. 

St. Peter's chains enshrined at the Basilica di San Pietro in Vincoli. Photo licensed under GFDL.

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