San Pietro: a little bit of history

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, or simply St. Peter’s Basilica, is an Italian Renaissance church in Vatican City, the papal enclave within the city of Rome.

Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter’s is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and one of the largest churches in the world.[3] While it is neither the mother church of the Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome, St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It has been described as “holding a unique position in the Christian world” and as “the greatest of all churches of Christendom”.

Catholic tradition holds that the Basilica is the burial site of St. Peter, one of Christ’s Apostles and also the first Pope; supposedly, St. Peter’s tomb is directly below the high altar of the Basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter’s since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the time of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter’s Basilica of the 4th century AD, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.

St. Peter’s is famous as a place of pilgrimage and for its liturgical functions. The Pope presides at a number of liturgies throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within the Basilica or the adjoining St. Peter’s Square. St. Peter’s has many historical associations, with the Early Christian Church, the Papacy, the Protestant Reformation, and Catholic Counter-reformation and numerous artists, especially Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter’s is one of the four churches of Rome that hold the rank of Major Basilica. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral because it is not the seat of a bishop; the Cathedra of the Pope as Bishop of Rome is in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.

St. Peter’s Basilica is neither the Pope’s official seat nor first in rank among the Major Basilicas of Rome. This honor is held by the Pope’s cathedral, the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran which is the mother church of all churches in communion with the Catholic Church. However, St. Peter’s is certainly the Pope’s principal church in terms of use because most Papal liturgies and ceremonies take place there due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence, and location within the Vatican City proper. The “Chair of Saint Peter”, or cathedra, an ancient chair sometimes presumed to have been used by St. Peter himself, but which was a gift from Charles the Bald and used by many popes, symbolizes the continuing line of apostolic succession from St. Peter to the reigning Pope. It occupies an elevated position in the apse of the Basilica, supported symbolically by the Doctors of the Church and enlightened symbolically by the Holy Spirit.

When to go

In San Pietro, you can visit the square that is always opened and the basilica, but you can go inside only from 7 a.m till 7 p.m. Please remember that this is a religious site so dress in accordance with the rules of the place.

What and where to eat: the best restaurants near San Pietro

This time I want to start my advice with the gelateria, because here, just in front of the entrance of the Vatican Museum, there’s one of the most famous ice-cream shops of the entire city, the Gelateria Old Bridge (Viale Dei Bastioni di Michelangelo 5), you should try their pistachio!

On Via Dei Gracchi, you’d find Gelateria Dei Gracchi one of the most amazing artisanal gelaterias in town.

For lunch and dinner, I have more amazing places to suggest: the first one is the Ristorante Arlù (Borgo Pio 135), a lovely place famous for the egg pasta and their desserts; the Trattoria Gallo Brillo (Viale Delle Milizie 116), where you can try amazing roman recipes and a lovely and suggestive aperitif; the Ristorante I San Pietrini (Via Delle Fornaci 89), famous for their Mediterranean cuisine; the Osteria dell’Angelo (Via Bettolo 24), the Osteria il Sorpasso (Via Properzio 31), and the last but not the least, Il Ragno D’Oro (Via Silla 26).

How to reach it

It’s very easy to get to San Pietro, because there are a lot of buses that arrive here (like 40, 64 and 492), but the easiest and fastest way is the subway, you can take the red line (the line A) and arrive at Ottaviano; if you are close to the blue line (the line B) you can get to Termini and there change.

Contact us

Any inquiry about this article? Write to Antonia at love@gourmetaly.com.  Antonia is a local foodie and insider, she studied foreign languages and she speaks English and German. Meet Antonia and join one of our events.