Learn about the history of St Peter’s Basilica in Rome with iMinds Travel's insightful fast knowledge series. The dome of St Peter’s Basilica is one of the most iconic images of Rome. The church attached to it drips with the splendour and marvels of a religion that has asserted world dominance over its two-thousand-year history. It is the largest Christian church on the planet. But perhaps even more than a beacon of Catholicism, St Peter’s Basilica is a monument to artistry and culture.
St Peter’s Basilica is situated in the Vatican City on one of the seven hills upon which the city of Rome was built. Rome’s affiliation with the saint comes from the Catholic tradition of Peter being the first bishop of Rome. The bishop of Rome heads the Catholic Church globally, and is also known as the pope. To this day the pope resides in this historic city, in the Vatican Palace next door. Before Christianity swept through the Roman Empire as the dominant religion, its followers were persecuted. And St Peter himself suffered the fate of a martyr. As the story goes, Peter was killed for his Christian faith in the same way Jesus died: that is, death by crucifixion. Humbly, he felt unworthy to face the same death as his lord, so he asked to be crucified upside down. This final request was granted, and Peter died on Vatican Hill allegedly in a stadium built by the Roman Emperor Nero. Peter was called the rock on which Jesus would build his church. Early Christians took this literally and built a shrine over the grave.
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