Vaticano: Basilica di San Pietro

“16 And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. 17 And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. 18 And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. 19 And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:16 – 16:19





“That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” In Catholic ideology, Peter is Jesus’ chosen representative on Earth.

In 67 CE, Peter was crucified upside down in the Circus of Caligula/Nero. The obelisk in the San Pietro Square is the only remnant of that circus

In 90 CE, Pope Cletus built an oratory of the grave of Peter. This early memorial is what has grown into the structure we see today.

In 324, the Basilica of San Pietro ordered by Constantine is begun and consecrated in 326.

In 800, Pope Leo III crowned Charlemagne first Holy Roman Emperor.

In 846, the Basilica and tomb of Peter were ravaged by invaders. As San Giovanni in Laterano was the Cathedral of Roma and residence of the Pope, San Pietro fell into disrepair. The neglect of San Pietro worsened with the Schism of 1309, as the Pope relocated to Avignon, France.

In 1377, at the urging of Saint-Catherine of Siena, Pope Gregory XI. The Basilica, however, was in irreparable condition. In 1492, it was determined that the Basilica was beyond repair.

In 1503, Pope Julius II ordered the demolition of the Old San Pietro and building of the New Basilica San Pietro. The cast of artists and architects involved in the construction reads as Dream Team of the Renaissance and Baroque eras: Michelangelo, Bramante, Raphael, Bernini.

Cardinals elect a new Pope in the Sistine Chapel. If the vote is not decisive, black smoke will appear from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Once a Pope is elected, the smoke will be white.


Korn, Frank J. A Catholic’s Guide to Rome: Discovering the Soul of the Eternal City. Paulist Press, 2000.

Macadam, Alta, and A. B. Barber. Rome. Blue Guides Limited, 2020.

Steves, Rick. Rick Steves Italy. Avalon Travel, 2019.

Testa, Judith. Rome Is Love Spelled Backward: Enjoying Art and Architecture in the Eternal City. Northern Illinois University Press, 1998.

John William Bailly 10 May 2022

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