St. Peter's Basilica - Architecture and Interiors
The Renaissance - Baroque facade is incredibly impressive and the central dome dominates the skyline of Vatican city. The vast interior is decorated by the bronze door and the Holy Door which is rarely opened - only on Jubilees.
There is so much to view inside the Basilica itself from the surrounding chapels including the Choir Chapel , The Baptistery and the Clementine Chapel to the high altar and marble staircases leading to the underground chapel.
Mass at St Peter's Basilica
Vatican's official website lists mass schedule of all the papal basilicas. The regular Sunday masses are not normally celebrated by the Pope. If there is a mass celebrated by the pope, you need tickets which can be obtained for free from the official website well in advance.
Dress Code and Security
There is a dress code, it is clear, and it is strictly enforced. In summary, no shorts, no bare shoulders, no miniskirts. This applies to both men and women, even of the hottest of days.
The code is more strict at the Basilica than at the Vatican Museums, so entry into the Museums does not guarantee entry to the Basilica.
There are long queues and visitors are scanned, airport style, for security reasons. Even if you pass this, you will still get turned away if you are not dressed appropriately.
- Climbing the Cupola (Dome)
Yes, the massive dome can be climbed in 551 steps, or you could take the lift half way up and climb the rest. Timings are 8am to 5pm, extended to 6pm in the summer. Keep aside an hour.
- St Peter's Treasury
The treasury contains what some call the riches of the church, ornaments, statues, papal mitres, official gifts from royal over the ages, and an impressive art collection. There is an entry charge and photography is not allowed.
- The Scavi (cool, but not critical)
The Scavi are burial grounds found underneath the church, which date back to the 4th century. It is believed that St. Peter is buried here. Other interesting highlights of the Scavi include a temple to Emperor Constantine, fountains and graffiti. Small groups of 12 people are allowed at a time, and visitor numbers a limited to less than 300 daily. Fee is 13 Euro.
- Vatican Grottos
Often confused for the Scavi, the grottos are actually beneath the crypt. Many popes are buried here, over the centuries, including John Paul II. Make sure to visit the Grotto in the end, as the exit takes you outside the Basilica.
- Papal Audience
This is on Wednesday mornings and is free, though you need a ticket issued by the Prefecture of the Papal Household. The office is accessed by the Bronze Door, Monday 9am - 1pm and Tuesdays 9am - 6pm.
Key HighlightsThe Renaissance - Baroque facade is incredibly impressive and the central dome can be seen across Rome as it dominates the skyline of Vatican city.
There is much to view here, from the chapels including the Choir Chapel, The Baptistery and the Clementine Chapel, to the high altar and marble staircases leading to the underground chapel. You can even climb the dome or see the grottos where the Popes are buried..
Even if you don't have a religious interest, you should make time to visit St. Peter's Basilica. Read the details section for practical information to plan your visit.