Before you go to St Peter’s Basilica- The ultimate Rome trip itinerary Day 5

The door to heaven on earth

Does the previous post Vatican museum get you an idea of how popular the Vatican museum is?

I really hope that helped you with your planning! I wished somebody had told me those tips since it’s on the top place to see in Rome and preparation are really important, especially to avoid scams.  

Today we are gonna share our St Peter’s Basilica experience. We went to St Peter’s Basilica for two days but decided to quit the first time (on Sunday), from the morning 9 am to afternoon about 3 pm the line was moving super slow… and it was about 200m long, it would have taken us 2 hours or more to get in, so we decide to see something else and come back on Monday, which was the BEST decision we ever made on this trip!

TIPS: Avoid weekends, come on weekdays and better either at super early mornings or afternoons. I had searched recommend visiting time from locals, and they mentioned visitors love to come in the morning at about 9 am, which was totally the case as we observed for two days. it’s not a surprise people think that come to see the church to start a day then following the museum. so we chose to do it backward, and it worked! we arrived at about 12:30 pm and the line to the entrance was tiny, seemed about 50 people! we basically got in within 10 mins. all visitors only need to put purses or bags go through the security check, the entrance fee is free, so no need to buy the ticket. (Full tips will be at the end of the post.)

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St Peter’s Basilica
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First, a quick introduction of St. Peter’s Basilica:

Simon, known as Peter, was a humble fisherman from Galilee. Matthew wrote in his gospel that Jesus said: “You are Peter (“stone” in Latin ) and on this stone, I will build my church and the doors of hell shall not win on it. I will give you the key of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven” with these words Christ gives Peter a privileged role among his apostles and elected him to guide his people. took a leadership position among Jesus’ followers and was of great importance in the founding of the Christian Church, also the first Bishop of Rome.

During Nero’s great Christian persecution in 64 A.D., Saint Peter was martyred and crucified.  After Constantine’s Edict of Milan (313 A.D.) Christians were allowed to construct places of worship. Constantine himself authorized the building of the basilica in 324. It was intended to allow Peter’s tomb to become the center of the structure.

Construction of the present basilica, which replaces Old St. Peter’s Basilica from the 4th -16th AD. Designed by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and the largest church in the world.

Pilgrims gathered in the basilica, having traveled on foot from all over Europe to reverence the tomb of the “Prince of the Apostles”. which is a very realistic scene still to these days.

So glad our strategy paid off. we went in and found out the visitors were definitely less than we thought, therefore, we did see all the main artworks comfortably. And the first one already got my heart- the Pieta.

Pieta 1499
Pieta Vatican
Pieta feet Vatican

Michelangelo’s early work, Pieta, the Virgin Mary holds the body of her son taken down from the cross. What a tremendous work it is, even though the sculpture is not so close and has window protection Chaptal (it was once damaged by a psychopath in 70s’ with a hammer of nose and left eye, restored and protected well now ), the whole view is not less impressive, it moved me when seeing the face of the Virgin Mary, conveys a feeling of grief. There is one interesting fact our guide book mentions: this Virgin Mary seemed much younger than her son, Giorgio Vasari, a famous Italian painter also an author of The Lives (Italian: Le Vite) who admired Pieta so much, in these series of artist biographies books, written Michelangelo’s answer to this point- the youth is the mirror and embodiment of virginity and in giving Mary the image of an adolescent girl, he wanted to emphasize the uncontaminated purity of the mother of God.  I couldn’t agree with this more the suffering and aged of Jesus compare to the purity and youth of the Virgin Mary, and feel the youth of face actually delivers more sympathy beyond the relationship of mother to son. it also creates a deep pity yet calm to Jesus and all the viewers, which is totally clever. Do you feel this way too?

St Peter’s Basilica Rome Pieta

It is an awe-inspiring space that you immerse yourself in art, holy chorus, and the architecture, impressive paintings on the octagon, gold on the gold of the walls, the curtains, angels flying on the columns, the stories from the Bible in every detail, saints, good and evil thief…etc. we went on and talking about the scenes. Also, I noticed there are many popes statues in the church, but everyone is blind into the environment harmony, you wouldn’t feel anything is disjointed. I couldn’t get enough of the golden sunshine falling down from the top of the windows, spreading the holy glory, as it is from heaven. In old times, people refer to the Vatican as heaven, I could completely feel it.

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St Peter’s Basilica sunshine Rome
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St Peter’s Basilica sunshine
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St Peter’s Basilica inside
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inside St Peter’s Basilica pope deco

But the most important statue is St. Peter, the ancient bronze statue is placed at the end of the nave, his left-hand holds the keys, the right hand is blessing people. the right foot is stretch out and has been worn away by the kiss and touch by faithful followers, there were visitors who touch his feet for a blessing if you are a Catholic person, don’t miss it, this probably the closest time you can be to St. Peter.

Peter in St Peter’s Basilica

Also, the Papal Altar, where you can peek the tomb of St. Peter. It was surrounded with beautiful bronze flower candle holders at the front, and very unique gold on bronze solid spiral columns, which is another masterwork from Bernini. It’s really impressed, no doubt the most majestic altar I have ever seen.

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candle at St Peter’s Basilica
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At the end of our visit, we went on to the left side of the church, another beautiful altar with St. John the Baptist painting, which is incredibly peaceful with fewer visitors somehow, we took a moment just look at the sunlight casting from the oculus that was the magical bath that I will never forget. we step out the museum feeling joyfully and coincidentally seeing a religious march, it’s possession, we followed for a while to witness the event, and out on the piazza, seeing other religious groups sing a chorus, from all other sides of the world,  the power of religion is still effective to a lot of people’s lives.

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Swiss guards in Vatican city
Swiss guards on duty at both sides of the St. Peter’s Basilica

Currently, end of this writing, we happened to seated at home rewatched the great movie, The Exorcist by William Friedkin… yes, it’s so well done, yet horrifying and faith-shaking. The devil is so intense, seeing the evil spirit took a chance on man’s weak point. Although  I am not a religious person, I respect the beauty of stories demonstrates good and evil profoundly. Have you ever visited St.Peter Basilica? please tell me about your experience or any movies you like talking about a religious topic. 🙂 

Tips for visiting St. Peter’s Basilica:

1. Better avoid the weekends, the waiting lines will be really crazy long, and may spend hours under the harsh sun without shade… you can also see our full experience of Vatican museum of Sunday in Vatican city for the full idea.

2. Do not buy any Fast pass around outside of St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican museum, the vendor all claim they have fast pass but the truth is it may not the cooperation with the official association, they will put you into some shaddy acts and pretend they don’t know it wouldn’t work out because it’s not on them.

3. It is FREE admission, but if you have a packed time and have to visit it on weekends or some other high peak season time, highly suggest checking the official website for Fast Entry Guided Tour with Vatican official guides.

4. Well-planned and be flexible if you intend to see the Vatican museum for the combo, choose to see the museum before the church since the museum close earlier than the Basilica.

5. Come late about noon or afternoon time to avoid high peak visitor time.

6. Please follow the dress code, and wear walkable shoes, and a lightweight jacket, bring a camera, small bag.

7. It’s nice if you would like to go on the top of the dome to get the whole view of the square, we missed this since we choose to see the small museum inside the Basilica, but it’s definitely worth a try, Climbing to the top of the Dome: Lift to the terrace plus 320 steps: 8€. Climbing 551 steps by foot: 6€.

8. Being respectful to people, talking with lower volume inside the church, since it’s a holy space.

I wish you had enjoyed today’s sharing. follow me @gabbie_arciniegas  & @betterthanauthentic on Instagram or sign up for the newsletter of the blog! you will get notification of new post here!

XO,

Gabrielle

Day 4:

Musei Vaticani→ Trastevere neighborhood

Day 5:

St. Peter’s Basilica→ Castel Sant’Angelo→ Piazza Navona