Saint Peter’s Basilica, officially known as the Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano, ranks second among the five major basilicas of Rome and is the second largest church in Christianity. St. Peter’s covers an area of 5.7 acres can hold up to 60,000 people. One of the holiest sites of Christianity, it is the burial site of basilica namesake Saint Peter. Saint Peter was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, the first Bishop of Antioch, and the first Bishop of Rome. Many Popes, starting with the first ones, have been buried there. Even though St. Peter’s Basilica is not the Pope’s official ecclesiastical seat, it is definitely his principal church, as most Papal ceremonies take place at St. Peter’s.
The current location of St. Peter’s Basilica is the site of the Circus of Nero, where Saint Peter was buried upon dying on an inverted cross in AD 64. Constantine I started construction of the basilica in 324 in the exact spot which had previously been a cemetery for pagans and Christians. St. Peter’s was a typical early basilica-plan church, with a nave and two aisles. The crossing was above the altar, producing a “T” plan. Over the years it was richly decorated with the wealth brought by the flow of pilgrims, but by the mid-15th century the basilica was in danger of collapse and Pope Nicholas asked architect Bernardo Rossellino to start rebuilding the church. The basilica was been worked on by many famous artists. St Peter’s construction started under Pope Julius II in 1505 and was completed in 1615 under Pope Paul V. Donato Bramante was the first chief architect. Michelangelo, who served as main architect for a while, designed its famous dome and was asked to finish the church. After Michelangelo died his student Giacomo della Porta continued with the church, and Carlo Maderno became the chief architect and designed the entrance. In 1968, Pope Paul VI announced that in 1939 under the traditional burial area of the popes, the bones of St. Peter were found....
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