Basilica is open daily, Apr-Sep 7:00-19:00; Oct-Mar 7:00-18:00
Square - Piazza San Pietro
This monumental elliptical space (240m wide), is the masterpiece
of Gian Lorenzo Bernini, who laid it out during the pontificates
of Alexander VII and of Clement IX (1657-1667)
1. Colonnades &
The Colonnades consist of 284 Doric columns and 88 pilasters
of travertine marble. These columns, 13m. tall, are arranged in
four rows. With the trabeation surmounted by a balustrade, the overall
height is 21m. Bernini built two straight covered wings (Charlemagne
left, Constantine right) 120 m. long, to link with the basilica's
This covered passageway (apx 800m) between the Vatican and Castel
Sant Angelo was an escape route for Pope Clement VII during the
sack of Rome in May 1527.
Alexander VII Coat of Arms
Six papal coat of arms of Alexander VI (1655-1667) are located around
the square. It was Alexander who decided to build the square as
we know it today.
The Fountains (8m high)
The fountain on the right is the work of Carlo Maderno (1613). Bernini,
who designed the square, had it erected where it now stands, and
for purposes of symmetry built the fountain on the left (1675).
The Obelisk (25.31m high)
The obelisk from Egypt (1835 BC), was brought to Rome in 37 BC by
Emperor Caligula for his circus. It became the witness of martyrdom
of St. Peter and other Christians. Sixtus V had Fontana move it
to its current position in 1586.
Centro del Colonnato
Between the obelisk and each fountain are white marble discs with
a granite center, which mark the centers of each colonnade. Standing
on the disc, you will see only the fist row of columns.
From the obelisk toward the fountain on the right, are white marble
discs used as sundial markers for the obelisk. Two dates are inscribed
on each disc to indicate when the noon shadow of the obelisk will
reach this spot. There are also four discs showing the points of
the compass as 'winds'.
Papal Water Fountain
Just outside the colonnade, against the passetto wall, is the fountain
of the four tiaras. Or you could just use one of the four fountains
around the obelisk.
John Paul II Shot Here
A small red porphyry stone in the pavement of the square, marks
the spot where Pope John Paul II was shot on May 13, 1981.
Just beyond the colonnade on the right, is the Bronze Doors used
as an entrance to the Apostolic Palace. Swiss Guards stand at this
door, but they may be approached to obtain tickets to the Wednesday
Entrance to Charlemagne Wing
The top of the Charlemagne Wing has been converted into an exhibition
hall. Occasionally exhibits are held here.
There are three main restroom areas. Along the Charlemagne Wing
(left side), beyond the colonnades on the upper right side, and
in the bag check area on the right side of the facade of the basilica.
The Apostolic Palace is actually a group of buildings which include
the Papal residence.
The Papal Apartment occupies the top floor of the Apostolic Palace.
The top two right windows are the study and bedroom of the pope.
On Sundays at noon, the pope usually appears at the second window
from the right to pray the Angelus and bless the crowd in the Square.
Statue of St. Peter
Pius IX (1846-1878) decided to replace older statues of Sts. Peter
and Paul, with the current larger ones on Easter 1947. The previous
pope, Gregory XVI (1831-1846) had commissioned Giuseppe De Fabris
to sculpt this statue for St. Paul Outside-the-Walls from 1838-1840.
Statue of St. Paul
This statue was sculpted in 1838 by Adamo Tadolini, a student of
Canova. St. Paul has a long sword in his right hand, while his left
hand holds a book. On the book is the inscription in Hebrew letters:
"I can do all things in him who strengthens me", from
Information & Post Office
A good place to send a post card home, this office also has an information
window where you can change money, and some good papal souvenirs.
Closed Sunday. Free tours in English start here at 14:15, on Mon,
Wed, Fri, at 15:00.
Vatican Book Store
This is the best place to buy a book about St. Peter's Basilica.
They offer a wide variety of books in multiple languages.
Covering a window facing the square, the "Mater Ecclesiae"
mosaic was commissioned by Pope John Paul II in thanksgiving to
the Virgin Mary after the assassination attempt.
Paul VI Hall
If you attend the Wednesday Papal Audience in the winter, it's usually
held in the Paul VI Hall.
Arch of the Bells Entrance
Swiss Guards at this entrance will let you pass if you have business
in the Vatican, or if you have reservations for the Scavi tour.
Above this arch are the bells of St. Peter's, the largest with a
diameter of 2.5m.
Checking your backpack is mandatory and free at this location to
the right of the basilica. It also has the newest restrooms, and
now you can rent an audio tour of the basilica. Tip: The stairs
near the restrooms are the fastest way to the roof elevator.
The Facade (Carlo Maderno)
This bigger than a football field (118m by 48m) facade has an inscription
from Pope Paul V in 1612, but was completed two years later. The
basilica was consecrated by Urban VIII on Nov. 18, 1626.
Loggia of the Blessings
It's from here that the new pope is announced with "Habemus
Papam", and gives the "Urbi et Orbi' (to the city and
the world) blessing. The relief below the balcony, by Buonvicino
(1614), is of Jesus handing St. Peter the keys.
Since Bernini's bell towers had to be torn down, Giuseppe Valadier
designed these two clocks from 1786-1790. The one on the right,
with one hand to show European mean time, is called the Oltramontano
clock. The one on the left, showing Rome time, is called the Italian
If you're lucky enough to book the Scavi tour under St. Peter's,
you'll see the spot where the obelisk stood from the time of Caligula
until Fontana moved it to the square in 1586.
Statues on the Facade (5.7m tall)
Surmounting the balustrade you'll find Christ the Redeemer, St.
John the Baptist and 11 Apostles. From the left: St. Thadeus, St.
Matthew, St. Philip, St. Thomas, St. James the Greater, St. John
the Baptist, The Redeemer, St. Andrew, St. John the Evangelist,
St. James the Lesser, St. Bartholomew, St. Simeon, St. Matthias.
You'll need reservations well in advance for the Scavi tour of the
Necropolis. Information on this tour to St. Peter's tomb can be
found on the Vatican
Website. The e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Sacristy & Treasury
Pius VI (1702-1786) had this built in 1776. The Treasury is entered
from the basilica, and contains gifts donated over the centuries.
Open Apr.-Sept. daily 9:00-18:30; Oct.-Mar. 9:00-17:15. €5, children
12 and under €3
Roof of St. Peter's
After taking the elevator and then walking around the inside of
the dome, you end up on the roof of St. Peter's where you'll find
a coffee bar and gift shop, and a second elevator (or stairs) down
into the basilica.
The roof of the Sistine is visible from St. Peter's Square. It's
from here that the famous white smoke announcing a new pope is seen.
Access to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel is a 15 min. walk
(north) around the Vatican walls.
Dome of St. Peter's
Michelangelo's famous dome is accessed from an elevator to the roof
(€7), a walk inside the dome (great view into the basilica), and
then 323 steps to the best view of Rome. Apr-Sep 8:00-17:45, Oct-Mar