Papal Basilica: St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter's Square/Oval is impressive. It's big, it's grand, it's busy, and there are lots of things to see.

To get into St. Peter's Square required passing through security check points and sending things through x-ray scanners (like at the airport). Once inside, the square (really an oval shape) is pretty big. The size of the "arms" that wrap around most of the square make it seem not as large though, but you could definitely fit a few football fields in there comfortably.

While you're busy looking up and admiring all the sculptures at the top of the arms looking down on the square, don't forget to look down. In a few places you'll see stone medallions embedded in ground marking various things. Around the central obelisk are markers for 8 cardinal compass points, while slightly off to either side of the obelisk are markers that indicate the center point of each of the arms.

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There are also markers for the astrological signs, positioned where the shadow of the obelisk falls at noon of the day each sign starts.

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A marker marks the spot where Pope St. John Paul II was shot

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The Basilica is huge. HUGE. You can find plenty of stats and lots of pictures about it online, but it's one of those things that until you see it in person, it's hard to appreciate the enormity of the place. Seriously, it's really big.

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Look at all the tiny people!

Everything in the Basilica is just stunningly beautiful. Murals, sculptures, paintings, everything. Take your time wandering around.

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The feet of the statue of St. Peter are pretty worn from people rubbing them.

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The main altar, built over top of the tomb of St. Peter. The baldichin (the canopy over the altar) is 20m tall!

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If you can, make sure to go on the Scavi tour (the necropolis underneath). It's quite a fascinating tour that takes you beneath the Basilica and to the tomb of St. Peter. You need to book it well in advance and the tours are limited to small groups.

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It's also worth the effort to climb up to the cupola at the top of the dome of the Basilica. Tickets are pretty inexpensive, and for a little bit extra you can pay for the elevator ride up to the dome level and climb the stairs the rest of the way. Totally worth it I think. It's a lot of steps to climb even after the elevator, but it's definitely worth the effort.

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