The Vatican: Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy

3112 words - 13 pages

The Vatican: Saint Peter's Basilica, Rome, Italy

"And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Matthew 16:18

Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican is one of the most exquisite churches in the world. The Basilica's importance is derived from the Bible, from the book of Matthew. The Apostle Peter is buried under the High Altar of Saint Peter's Basilica, providing fulfillment to the directive that Jesus gave to Peter. In the paper, the background of Saint Peter's Basilica is given, tracing its development from a small shrine that was placed over Peter's grave to its transformation ...view middle of the document...

? Instead, Constantine chose the San Giovanni in Laterano as the official church of the Pope.[vi]? Laterano continues to hold this distinction even today.? According to Constantine?s plans, over Peter?s tomb would stand the High Altar of the new church.[vii]? The High Altar is the most holy site in the Basilica, for only the Pope can say Mass there.? Legend has it that Constantine removed his robes and personally assisted in digging the foundation for the Basilica.[viii]? The first Basilica was constructed in the shape of a cross and consisted of five naves adorned with eighty-eight columns.[ix]? In addition, the Basilica had 120 altars, and 700 oil lamps.[x]? Of the 700, 120 lamps perpetually burned around Saint Peter?s tomb.[xi]? Given the fact that the Basilica was the site of Saint Peter?s tomb, the Basilica played a central role in early Christian spiritual life.[xii]? The Basilica grew precipitously and quickly became the finest of Christian churches.[xiii]? Thousands of pilgrims flocked to the original Saint Peter?s Basilica.[xiv]? Owing partially to the fact that the Pope had taken up permanent residence at Avignon, France by the fifteenth century the Basilica had fallen into alarming disrepair, and plans were made for a new Saint Peter?s.[xv]

b.The Current Saint Peter?s Basilica

Pope Nicholas V, a faithful Humanist, conceived of a new Basilica.[xvi] He plunged eagerly into the work, and had 2,500 wagonloads of masonry delivered from the Colosseum.[xvii]? However, it was not until 1505, under Pope Julius II, that construction began in earnest.[xviii]? Anxious to begin work on the new Basilica, Pope Julius has 2,500 workers demolish the 1,000-year-old Basilica in 1506.[xix]? The Pope laid the foundation stone of the new Saint Peter?s himself that same year.? The first architect assigned the daunting task of designing the new Basilica was Donato Bramante.[xx]? His death in 1514 brought delays to construction in addition to revisions to the original design.? Luminaries such as Raphael Sanzio and Michelangelo Buonarroti succeeded Bramante.[xxi]? Though construction was interrupted numerous times, Saint Peter?s Basilica, largely in the style originally conceived by Bramante, was dedicated on November 1, 1626 by Pope Urbano VIII.[xxii]

II.Saint Peter?s Tomb

The holiest relics within Saint Peter?s Basilica are the tomb and the bones of Saint Peter.? The Basilica is literal physical manifestation of Christ?s statement to Peter:? ?You are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church.?? For over two thousand years, according to Church tradition, the High Altar of Saint Peter?s Basilica has been directly over the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles.? On December 23, 1950, after a ten-year archeological excavation, Pope Pius XII announced that Saint Peter?s tomb had been discovered far beneath the Basilica, directly under the High Altar.[xxiii]? Pope Pius went on to say that it would be impossible to determine whether the...

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