The word “basilica” was originally
used by the Romans to describe a Roman
public building, which was usually located
in the center of town. Eventually they
became Christian churches, and the name
became synonymous with “church”.
A basilica is usually the center of a
Catholic region, and would house the offices
of the Cardinal (that is usually called
a cathedral, which St Peter's Basilica
is not). St Peter's Basilica, easily one
of the largest and grandest churches and/or
basilicas ever built, is the seat of the
Pope, and the center of Vatican City.
As the King is to his Kingdom, the Pope
is to the Catholic faith, and so St Peter's
Basilica is the epicentre of the Catholic
faith as a whole. Seating over 60000 people,
it is said that it was built at the place
where St. Peter, one of the apostles of
Jesus Christ and considered the first
pope, was crucified or buried. The church,
it is also said, hosts the tomb of St.
Peter under the main altar.
Peter's Basilica was started in 1506 and
finished in 1626. It is a marvel of architecture
and art, containing masterpiece after
masterpiece. It is one of the most sacred
places in the world and sees some of the
most important ceremonies of the Catholic
Faiths occurring in its walls every year.
It is a place of pilgrimage for thousands
of people, who want to participate in
its sacred ceremonies and see the Pope
as he goes about the duties of his office.
Another interesting fact is that the site
of St Peter's Basilica was actually on
the site of the Circus of Nero, built
in the first century AD. It is also the
exact location that Emperor Constantine
officially recognized Christianity by
starting construction of a great basilica
in 324 (St Peter's Basilica would come
later). There are many tombs and burial
sites in the Vatican City, and many of
their inhabitants remain unidentified.