St. Peter's Basilica (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri; Italian: Basilica di San Pietro in Vaticano) is a Late Renaissance church
located within Vatican City.
Designed principally by Donato Bramante, Michelangelo, Carlo Maderno and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, St. Peter's is the most
renowned work of Renaissance architecture and remains one of the largest churches in the world. While it is neither
the mother church of the Roman Catholic Church nor the cathedral of the Bishop of Rome, St. Peter's is regarded as one
of the holiest Catholic sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the
greatest of all churches of Christendom".
By Roman Catholic tradition, the basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, one of the twelve apostles of
Jesus and, also according to tradition, the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession.
Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this
reason, many Popes have been interred at St. Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this
site since the time of Constantine. Construction of the present basilica, replacing the Old St. Peter's Basilica of the 4th
century, began on 18 April 1506 and was completed on 18 November 1626.
St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions. Because of its location in the Vatican, the Pope
presides at a number of services throughout the year, drawing audiences of 15,000 to over 80,000 people, either within
the Vatican Basilica, or in St. Peter's Square. St. Peter's has many strong historical associations, with the Early
Christian church, the papacy, the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo. As a
work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. St. Peter's is one of the four churches of Rome
that hold the rank of Major Basilica. Contrary to popular misconception, it is not a cathedral as it is not the seat of a
bishop; the cathedra of the Bishop of Rome is located in the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran.