St. Peter's Basilica Consecrated
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), officially known in Italian as the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City.
St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom".
In Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the 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 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.
St. Peter's Basilica (Italian: San Pietro in Vaticano) is a major basilica in Vatican City, an enclave of Rome. St. Peter's was until recently the largest church ever built and it remains one of the holiest sites in Christendom. Contrary to what one might reasonably assume, St. Peter's is not a cathedral - that honor in Rome goes to St. John Lateran.
St. Peter's Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter - the apostle who is considered the first pope - was crucified and buried. St. Peter's tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Originally founded by Constantine in 324, St. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.
The Basilica of St. Peter is traditionally believed to have been erected over the spot where St. Peter was buried after his martyrdom in Rome around 64 CE. That he was indeed martyred, that it took place in Rome, and where it took place, remain controversial questions. Some scholars support the tradition that St. Peter was buried Ad Catacumbas (i.e. at the catacombs of San Sebastiano) on the Via Appia.
Over two hundred years later, in the early 4th century, Emperor Constantine (died 337 CE) erected a basilica dedicated to St. Peter on the Vatican Hill on the south side of the Tiber River. The basilica was erected with difficulty on the sloping side of Vatican Hill, the floor built out from the hill and over an earlier Roman cemetery. The fact that this awkward site was chosen, instead of level ground to the south, has convinced some that it was Constantine's intention to mark the site of the apostle's tomb. However, the site may also have been chosen to both mark the cemetery which may otherwise have been a sacred place, and, in more practical terms, to remove the building from the poorly-drained, swampy ground near the river.