This week we travel to the smallest independent state in the entire world, Vatican City. Enclaved within the great city of Rome, Vatican City hosts roughly 5 million tourists and pilgrims each year, and with good reason. St. Peter’s Basilica is not only the venue for the Pope’s address; it is a renowned piece of high Renaissance architecture. Designed by Dontato Bramante and Michelangelo in one of the last phases of construction, St. Peter’s Basilica is among the biggest churches of any religion in the world. Scores of people will occupy the church’s campus, St. Peter’s Piazza, to witness the Pope’s address to the people.
The name St. Peter’s Basilica is based on the belief that St. Peter himself is buried inside. After the Great Fire of Rome around 64 CE, Roman Emperor Nero Caesar blamed the Christians for the tragedy. Nero ordered that St. Peter be crucified upside down to disgrace him. Over time and through much study of the literary accounts of that time period, many historians believe that a tyrannical Nero set the fire himself to rebuild Rome to his liking. Either way, Vatican City and Rome are known for a rich and mysterious history, complete with an astounding juxtaposition of beauty and horror.
The current structure and façade of St. Peter’s Basilica was finished over a millennium later in the early 17th century. During the Renaissance, the Papal ministry commissioned many famous pieces of art by renowned Italian artists. On a journey through Italy, it is imperative that one takes the time to visit Rome and the Vatican City!