Climbing to the top of the cupola (dome) of Saint Peter’s Basilica is one of the main attractions during your Roman holiday since it is the highest point of Rome, located on the territory of the Vatican. However, it is essential to mention that you should better visit the smallest government in the world in the morning to enjoy views of Rome without crowds of tourists and skip the lines to the Basilica.
The dome opens at 8 am, and you need to throw out St Peter’s cathedral security check before climbing. After the security check, look right, and you will find a sign that directs you to the kiosk with tickets for the dome.
On the way to the ticket desk, you will pass the entrance to the Basilica on the right side of the colonnade, then the Holy Door. After turn left and you will see the place where to purchase tickets.
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Michelangelo Buonarotti designed the dome of St Peter’s church. The artist was inspired by the dome of the Duomo of Florence and the Pantheon, designed by Brunelleschi. Unfortunately, when he died, the new Basilica missed the corner chapels, the façade, and the dome, of which only the columns and drum had been finished.
In 1587, Giacomo della Porta became responsible for completing the dome with his assistant Domenico Fontana. After two years of work, the dome was finally completed. According to the legend, Michelangelo planned his dome 1.5 m (5 ft) shorter across than the Pantheon. He then said: “I could build one bigger, but not more beautiful, than that of the Pantheon.”
The maximum height of the cupola is 133.3 m from the ground level, the height inside the basilica is 117.57 m, while the inner diameter is 41.5 m. Also, the total weight is 14 thousand tons
The great cupola is located above the altar, and the Baldacchino is decorated with mosaic and stucco ornaments. Four structural piers support it with a perimeter of 71 m and a height of 120 m from the ground to the roof. Moreover, there are large letters in the background, from St. Veronica to St. Helen, saying “Hinc una fides mundo refulgent” (From here a single faith shines throughout the world); and from St. Longinus to St. Andrew: “Hinc sacerdotii unitas exoritur” (From here is born the unity of the priesthood).
Above the windows, the dome is divided into sixteen ribs and segments, decorated by impressive figures. Among them are:
Also, there are 96 figures and a blue sky with stars. Above them, you can see the lantern with a Latin inscription at its base:“To the glory of St. Peter, Pope Sixtus V in the year 1590, the fifth of his pontificate.” Many artists worked on the decorations inside the dome since Michelangelo died when only the base was completed. Pope Clement VIII commissioned Giuseppe Cesari (Cavalier d’Arpino) to finish the upper part of the decoration.
There are two ticket options:
Payment is accepted only in cash
After 30 seconds ride on the elevator, you can stop by to take a coffee in a bar on the dome or visit a restroom. Climbing up to the top of the dome goes through progressively narrower and sloping stairs. The narrow passageway can be inconvenient if you are claustrophobic. Also, it could be crowded and hot on summer days. However, there are small windows with fresh air, and you can take a break while climbing up.
It is worth to ascent to the top of the dome not only for amazing views of Rome and Vatican, but also, you can send the postcard to your friends or relatives from the highest point of the Vatican
Undoubtedly, this is one of the main attractions you can do in the Vatican. Sending a postcard from the highest point of the smallest government in the world is a cheap, original, and unique present for the people you love. The price for the postcard starts from 50 cents, while the stamp price is 2.30 euros if you are going to send it to the US or 1 euro if you want to send it to any European country. Furthermore, postcards sold in the Vatican are connected to the thematic of the smallest government in the world: images of masterpieces of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, Popes, Swiss Guard, etc. Also, there is a souvenir shop at the same place where postcards are sold.
You can climb up to the dome with us during our individual tour to the Vatican at sunrise
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Author: Kate Zusmann
For the last 10 years, I live in the Eternal City. Traveling, exploring new things, writing blogs, and shooting vlogs are my main hobbies, but the thing that I like even more is sharing my experience and thoughts with you! Explore Rome with Us :)
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