Benedict XVI has asked that St. Peter's Basilica be an authentic
place of prayer, of adoration and praise to the Lord. His
comments came at an October 8, 2007 meeting with the chapter
of the basilica, the group entrusted with the care of the
holy place, where thousands of pilgrims and tourists come everyday
from all over the world, more than elsewhere it is necessary
that next to the tomb of St. Peter there be a stable community
of prayer that guarantees continuity with tradition and at the
same time intercedes for the intentions of the pope in the Church
and world today."
added, "Prayer is a service to the Lord, who deserves to be
praised and adored, and at the same time it is a witness to
others. And where God is praised and adored with faithfulness,
blessing is not lacking."
* * *
this spirit, we present the 'Top 7 Places to Pray in St Peter's'.
While prayer is a serious matter, this list is only one opinion
on where you might find peace and prayer inside the Vatican
Basilica. This information is unofficial and not endorsed
by the Vatican in any way. If you've experienced a better
place to pray, let us know.
people are unmoved by Michelangelo's
Pieta, and many consider it one of the greatest religious
works of art. Whatever your faith, the beauty and serenity of
this mother who has lost her child invokes a spiritual response.
popularity of the Pieta
actually prevents it from being a better place to pray. It always
seems crowded in front of the Pieta
Chapel. The glass in front of the statue also serves to
separate you, and it catches the flash of constant cameras.
it may not be one of the best places to pray, the sculpture
is one of the best invitations to prayer.
Come to St Peter's early in the morning to avoid the crowds,
or move to the
left or right doors of the chapel to get a more private
view of the Pieta.
entire church is here because St Peter's tomb is below. The
Papal Altar with its towering baldachinno and dome above all
point to his ancient tomb. Since this is the shrine to St Peter,
let's look at spot to get in touch with him.
actually a number of places where you can feel close to St Peter.
If you're one of the fortunate few to book a Scavi
tour, you'll get to see a piece of his ancient tomb memorial,
and even the bones found there. Unfortunately tours don't have
room for much prayer time, though some tours end this way.
mass at the Clementine
Chapel in the grottoes (closest area to St Peter's tomb)
is certainly be one of the most prayerful experiences possible
with the saint. But to do this, you'll need a special reservation
and you have to supply the priest.
a little visit to St Peter, you might just want to stand before
the Papal Altar and look into the Confessio
below. The gold box down there doesn't hold the bones of St
Peter, it's for the pallium, but behind that is the tomb making
this a privileged spot. A better view can be had by visiting
(tombs of the Popes), where you can look straight into the Confessio.
don't mind looking a bit touristy, get in line to place your
hand on the right foot of the St
Peter statue, not far from the Papal Altar, beside the St
Longinus pier. This isn't just a popular photo op, but an ancient
devotion confirmed by the missing toes on St
Peter's worn foot.
often a kneeler
directly in front of the Confessio, and this may offer the
best position to talk to the keeper of the keys.
Transept (north of the Papal Altar) you'll find the Franciscans
relieve you of your sins. The Sacrament
of Penance is offered here in multiple languages, the attendant
will point you toward the right confessional.
the sacrament, which requires that you pray, the
area is also conducive to prayer. Only those participating
in the sacrament are allowed into this area, which offers pews
for you to sit or kneel and pray before and after Confession.
Just getting away from the wash of camera flash for a moment
has a very calming effect.
it gets busy, lines forms by people standing just out of whispering
distance of their chosen language confessional. See Schedule
Joseph's Altar is in the center of the Left
Transept. Five daily masses
are held in this area from 9:00am until 5:00pm. This is the
largest, always accessible seating area in the basilica. So
even if you're not attending mass, it's a great place to rest
and meditate a moment.
faithful who hold a devotion to St Jude, this is the place to
be, since the relics of Sts Simon and Jude lie under the central
altar. In fact, this area was once known as the Tribune to St
Simon and St Jude. A small mosaic of St
Jude is visible just to the right
of St Joseph's altarpiece.
left side is the Altar
of the Crucifixion of St Peter, with its mosaic being a
copy of the famous painting by Guido Reni. Since this area is
the closest to where the obelisk stood in the Circus of Nero,
it is considered to be nearest the spot where St Peter was crucified.
TIP: This is the easiest place to catch a mass
if you're a true pilgrim. Check the mass times on a sign
next to the Sacristy entrance.
Body of John XXIII
being declared Blessed, the body of Pope John XXII (d. 1963)
was brought up from the grottoes and placed under the St
Jerome Altar, which has become a popular devotion
site ever since.
Vatican Council II (1962–1965), but did not live to see its
completion. In Italy he is known as "Il Papa Buono" ("The Good
out of curiosity or true devotion, there always seems to be
people before the body of John XXIII. Kneeling in the pews and
viewing the body of this pope, prayer
seems to be the natural response.
Get to St Peter's early in the morning (7-8am) for mass
at the St Jerome Altar.
Tomb of John Paul II
certainly no secret that the Tomb
of John Paul II has become the main reason many people visit
St Peter's. The march of many into the grottoes to visit the
tomb of the great pope prompted a change to the entrance
of the grottoes. Instead of the stairs under St Andrew's statue
in the basilica, the entrance was moved outside to the right
of the basilica. Now the queue to enter the grottoes is often
longer than the one to climb the dome.
the tomb is quite plain and there is no space for seating, the
faithful continue to make the pilgrimage. Popular devotion
has long taken the form of flowers on a tomb, but many now bring
objects, like rosaries, that are momentarily placed on John
Paul II's tomb. These objects become something of a religious
souvenir and provide a tangible connection with the Holy
for sainthood is steadily progressing, and perhaps someday
his body will be moved up into the basilica like John XXIII.
For now, we can visit his tomb in the grottoes, or look in
recently installed by the Vatican.
If the queue to enter the grottoes is too long, you can glimpse
down into John Paul II's tomb area from a floor
grate, near the statue of St Peter.
Blessed Sacrament Chapel
is the place exclusively for prayer. This clear statement, in
describes the purpose of the Blessed Sacrament Chapel.
an 8:30am mass, the Blessed Sacrament is exposed for Eucharistic
Adoration until the 4:45pm benediction.
and solemn chapel is an artistic
gem, decorated by Bernini. But what concerns us here is
the best place to pray, and this
chapel has been described as "the very soul of the
a story that was told by one of the 'English Guides to St Peter's',
of a unexpected visit to the basilica by John Paul II one morning.
The attendants asked him why he was making the visit. John Paul
supposedly said that St Peter's was becoming more a museum than
a church, and that there was no place reserved for prayer. The
pope then celebrated mass in the Blessed Sacrament Chapel, and
had it reserved thereafter as an exclusive place of prayer.
Bernini's angels on the altar, provides a wonderful visual
accompaniment to prayer.
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