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What is St. Peter's Basilica?

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Quick Answer

St. Peter's Basilica is a basilica in the Vatican City in Rome and the largest church in Christendom. The current St. Peter's Basilica as of 2015 is the second version of this building, because the original building was razed and the new structure was built in its place. The Basilica features a Greek-cross layout with arms of the church of equal lengths and a 435-foot high dome on top.

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The first St. Peter's Basilica was erected in 349 A.D. under Constantine's rule and was built over the tomb of St. Peter. By the middle of the 15th century, the Basilica was close to collapsing despite restoration attempts. It was eventually rebuilt, with construction completed in 1626. Several famous artists worked on the project, and they all died before its completion. Michaelangelo made the most progress but died before construction of the dome.

Statues of St. Peter and St. Paul stand near the stairs of the church. The Loggia delle Benedizioni is also on the front of St. Peter's Basilica. Newly elected popes stand on this balcony when they are proclaimed.

The church is open to visitors every day, including visits to the dome and grottoes. Inside the basilica, visitors see various works of art, including Michaelangelo's Pieta. St. Peter's Basilica contains several tombs of popes, such as Pope John Paul II, Pope Urban VIII and Pope Paul III.

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