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Saint Peters


St. Peter's stands on the site of the circus of Nero, where many Christians were martyred and where St. Peter is said to have been buried after his crucifixion." An oratory (chapel?) stood here as early as A.D. 90. In 309 a basilica, half the size of what St. Peter's now is, was begun by Constantine. It was the grandest church of that time. "The crypt is now the only remnant of this early basilica." The building of the present edifice was commenced in 1506 by Julius II. Michael Angelo worked 17 years at it (to 1564). It was completed and "consecrated by Pope Urban VIII., on 18th November, 1626, on the 1300th anniversary of the day on which St. Silvester is said to have consecrated the original edifice."

This church contains 29 altars, besides the high altar. Its area is 212,321 sq. ft., while that of the cathedral of Milan is 117,678, St. Paul's at London 108,982, St. Sophia at Constantinople 96,497, and the Cathedral of Cologne 73,903 sq. ft. The nave is 87 feet wide and 150 feet high, and the dome is 138 feet in diameter (5 feet less than that of the Pantheon) and some 450 feet high. One might fill a volume in describing its rich marble pavement, its 148 massive columns, its gilded chapels and ceiling, its fine sculpture, and the thousand and one objects in and about it that render it the most imposing as well as the largest church in the world. Imagine yourself in the middle of a church occupying over five acres, whose High Altar stands under a brass canopy 95 feet high, and weighing 93 tons, and whose Confessio is surrounded by 89 burning lamps!

The expense of erecting this church was so heavy that Julius II. and Leo X. resorted to the sale of indulgences to raise the money, and this lead to the Reformation.