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There is scarcely an account of any Roman sojourn that does not contain the impressions of a visit to St Peter's. Those who remained silent about virtually everything else often found their voices inside the great basilica. The sole record of Fyodor Dostoevsky's thoughts during his 1863 stay are that the church 'sent a shiver down the spine'.
'A Literary Companion to Rome' Copyright 1991 by John Varriano, p. 221

Old St Peter's. Recent excavations under the basilica have shown that both the Old and New St Peter's were centered with great care on a particular grave, although this involved very great technical difficulties. This presumably the "Trophy" of St Peter mentioned c.200 by Gaius; certainly it was believed to be the tomb of Peter by Emperor Constantine (d. 337), under whom the first great basilica was begun.
The New Catholic Encyclopedia, St. Peter's Basilica

Truly negative reactions are surprisingly rare, and even then frequently tempered by some positive afterthought. Thus George Stillman Hillard, who was among the most disapproving critics of Catholic iconography, found that St Peter's 'is so vast and it contains so much', that it is 'among buildings what Shakespeare is among poets: both are characterized by universality'.
'A Literary Companion to Rome' Copyright 1991 by John Varriano, p. 221

As a mere promenade, St Peter's is unequaled. It is better than the Boulevards, than Picadilly or Broadway, and if it were not the most beautiful place in the world, it would be the most entertaining.
-HENRY JAMES, Transatlantic Sketches, 1873
From: 'When in Rome' Copyright 1998 by Robert J Hutchinson, p. 60

...even so this
Outshining and o'erwhelming edifice
Fools our fond gaze, and greatest of the great,
Defies at first our Nature's littleness,
Till, growing with its growth, we thus dilate
Our spirits to the size of what they contemplate.
-Byron, Childe Harold, IV 158, in The Complete Poetical Works II, p.177
From: 'A Literary Companion to Rome' Copyright 1991 by John Varriano, p.224

I love St Peter's church. It grieves me to think that after a few days I shall see it no more. It has a peculiar smell from the quantity of incense burned in it. The music that is heard in it is always good and the eye is always charmed. It is an ornament of the earth.
-RALPH WALDO EMERSON, Journals, April 7, 1833
From: 'When in Rome' Copyright 1998 by Robert J Hutchinson, p. 66

And I view inside, and all there, all,
As the swarming hollow of a hive,
The whole Basilica alive!
Men in the chancel, body and nave,
Men on the pillars' architrave,
Men on the statues, men on the tombs
With popes and kings in their porphyry wombs,
All famishing in expectation
Of the main-altar's consummation.
-BROWNING, Christmas Eve 1850
From: 'A Literary Companion to Rome' Copyright 1991 by John Varriano, p.223

St Peter's is a resume of so much that is Roman, from Michelangelo's Pieta to Bernini's Baldacchino and Cathedra Petri and Giotto's mosaic of the Navicella. Its outsized dimensions and grandiose decoration are overwhelming, making the experience of walking through the building a dynamic one. The tombs of the popes provide a visual history of art and the papacy.
-Bruce Boucher, Art historian, University College, London
From: 'City Secrets Rome', Copyright 1999 by Robert Kahn, p. 79

St Peter's Basilica is the reason why Rome is still the center of the civilized world. For religious, historical, and architectural reasons it by itself justifies a journey to Rome, and its interior offers a palimpsest of artistic styles at their best - e.g., Bernini's great tomb for Pope Alexander VII, Michelangelo's Pieta, the Baldacchino, and the dome. Down below, the pagan necropolis in the scavi and the tomb of Saint Peter should not be missed.
-Helen F. North, Classicist, Swarthmore College
From: 'City Secrets Rome', Copyright 1999 by Robert Kahn, p. 79-80

We now turn to look at the interior of the basilica. At first, to be frank, we are disappointed; we have heard so much about its stupendous size that we expect this to strike us all at once. Only gradually does it dawn upon us - as we watch people draw near to this or that monument, strangely they appear to shrink; they are, of course, dwarfed by the scale of everything in the building. This in its turn overwhelms us.
'The Companion Guide to Rome', Copyright 2003 Georgina Masson, p. 615-6

"I like to look at statues. . . and I like to look at pictures also--even of monks looking up in sacred ecstasy and monks looking down in meditation, and monks skirmishing for something to eat--and therefore I drop ill nature to thank the papal government for so jealously guarding and so industriously gathering up these things, and for permitting me, a stranger and not an entirely friendly one, to roam at will and unmolested among them, charging me nothing and only requiring that I shall behave myself simply as well as I ought to behave in any other man's house. I thank the Holy Father right heartily, and I wish him long life and plenty of happiness."
-Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad

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