|During the church's early years it was considerably|
more sparse in appearance that seen here.
|The church's design and floor plan were based on that of the ancient |
Roman basilica dating back some three-hundred years earlier.
|The Crucifixion of St. Peter, 1661, Caravaggio. Church tradition has it that Peter was crucified upside down at his own request so that his death would not be seen as emulating that of Jesus.|
|The Circus of Nero area during the second and third centuries. The tomb, temple, and obelisk are marked in red. The south wall of Old St. Peter's would align with the row of buildings running up the center of the model.|
How did they move the
obelisk? Very carefully.
The etching gives us a
|The floor level of Constantine's Basilica became the crypt beneath today's St. Peter's.|
|Steps just in front of today's high altar (carried over from Old St. Peter's) lead down to the crypt and eventually to the tomb of St. Peter on below.|
In 846, Saracens sacked and damaged the basilica. The raiders seem to have known about Rome's extraordinary treasures both holy and impressive. Basilicas, such as St. Peter's were outside the Aurelian walls, and thus easy targets. They were filled to overflowing with rich liturgical vessels and with jeweled reliquaries housing all of the relics recently amassed. As a result, the raiders pillaged the holy shrine. In response Pope Leo IV built the Leonine wall and rebuilt the parts of St. Peter's that had been damaged.
|A map and cross section of the crypt and the Roman necropolis beneath the present-day basilica.|
|Old St. Peter's Basilica, Romanesque in style, a far cry from the highly ornamental Baroque classicism which replaced it.|