Stato della Città del Vaticano

Image by Herb@Victoria
Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano – St. Peter’s Basilica – After the crucifixion of Jesus in the second quarter of the 1st century AD, it is recorded in the Biblical book of the Acts of the Apostles that one of his twelve disciples, Simon known as Peter, a fisherman from Galilee, took a leadership position among Jesus’ followers and was of great importance in the founding of the Christian Church. The name Peter is "Petrus" in Latin and "Petros" in Greek, deriving from "petra" which means "stone" or "rock" in Greek.

It is believed by a long tradition that Peter, after a ministry of about thirty years, travelled to Rome and met his martyrdom there in the year 64 AD during the reign of the Roman Emperor Nero. His execution was one of the many martyrdoms of Christians following the Great Fire of Rome. According to Origen, Peter was crucified head downwards, by his own request because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero. The obelisk now stands in Saint Peter’s Square and is revered as a "witness" to Peter’s death. It is one of several ancient Obelisks of Rome.

According to tradition, Peter’s remains were buried just outside the Circus, on the Mons Vaticanus across the Via Cornelia from the Circus, less than 150 metres (490 ft) from his place of death. The Via Cornelia (which may have been known by another name to the ancient Romans) was a road which ran east-to-west along the north wall of the Circus on land now covered by the southern portions of the Basilica and Saint Peter’s Square. Peter’s grave was initially marked simply by a red rock, symbolic of his name, but meaningless to non-Christians. A shrine was built on this site some years later. Almost three hundred years later, Old Saint Peter’s Basilica was constructed over this site.

In 1939, in the reign of Pope Pius XII, 10 years of archaeological research began, under the crypt of the basilica, an area inaccessible since the 9th century. Indeed, the area now covered by the Vatican City had been a cemetery for some years before the Circus of Nero was built. It was a burial ground for the numerous executions in the Circus and contained many Christian burials, perhaps because for many years after the burial of Saint Peter many Christians chose to be buried near him. The excavations revealed the remains of shrines of different periods at different levels, from Clement VIII (1594) to Callixtus II (1123) and Gregory I (590–604), built over an aedicula containing fragments of bones that were folded in a tissue with gold decorations, tinted with the precious murex purple. Although it could not be determined with certainty that the bones were those of Peter, the rare vestments suggested a burial of great importance. On 23 December 1950, in his pre-Christmas radio broadcast to the world, Pope Pius XII announced the discovery of Saint Peter’s tomb.

Old St. Peter’s Basilica was the fourth-century church begun by the Emperor Constantine between 319 and 333 AD. It was of typical basilical Latin Cross form with an apsidal end at the chancel, a wide nave and two aisles on either side. It was over 103.6 metres (340 ft) long, and the entrance was preceded by a large colonnaded atrium. This church had been built over the small shrine believed to mark the burial place of St. Peter. It contained a very large number of burials and memorials, including those of most of the popes from St. Peter to the 15th century. Like all of the earliest churches in Rome, both this church and its successor had the entrance to the east and the apse at the west end of the building. Since the construction of the current basilica, the name Old St. Peter’s Basilica has been used for its predecessor to distinguish the two buildings.

By the end of the 15th century, having been neglected during the period of the Avignon Papacy, the old basilica was in bad repair. It appears that the first pope to consider rebuilding, or at least making radical changes was Pope Nicholas V (1447–55). He commissioned work on the old building from Leone Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino and also got Rossellino to design a plan for an entirely new basilica, or an extreme modification of the old. His reign was frustrated by political problems and when he died, little had been achieved. He had, however, ordered the demolition of the Colosseum and by the time of his death, 2,522 cartloads of stone had been transported for use in the new building.

Pope Julius II planned far more for St Peter’s than Nicholas V’s program of repair or modification. Julius was at that time planning his own tomb, which was to be designed and adorned with sculpture by Michelangelo and placed within St Peter’s. In 1505 Julius made a decision to demolish the ancient basilica and replace it with a monumental structure to house his enormous tomb and "aggrandize himself in the popular imagination". A competition was held, and a number of the designs have survived at the Uffizi Gallery. A succession of popes and architects followed in the next 120 years, their combined efforts resulting in the present building. The scheme begun by Julius II continued through the reigns of Leo X (1513–1521), Hadrian VI (1522–1523). Clement VII (1523–1534), Paul III (1534–1549), Julius III (1550–1555), Marcellus II (1555), Paul IV (1555–1559), Pius IV (1559–1565), Pius V (saint) (1565–1572), Gregory XIII (1572–1585), Sixtus V (1585–1590), Urban VII (1590), Gregory XIV (1590–1591), Innocent IX (1591), Clement VIII (1592–1605), Leo XI (1605), Paul V (1605–1621), Gregory XV (1621–1623), Urban VIII (1623–1644) and Innocent X (1644–1655).

One method employed to finance the building of St. Peter’s Basilica was the granting of indulgences in return for contributions. A major promoter of this method of fund-raising was Albrecht, Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, who had to clear debts owed to the Roman Curia by contributing to the rebuilding program. To facilitate this, he appointed the German Dominican preacher Johann Tetzel, whose salesmanship provoked a scandal.

A German Augustinian priest, Martin Luther, wrote to Archbishop Albrecht arguing against this "selling of indulgences". He also included his "Disputation of Martin Luther on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences", which came to be known as The 95 Theses. This became a factor in starting the Reformation, the birth of Protestantism.

August Wilson Center Back on Track for Second Act
… seeming to scotch a recent settlement deal that would have allowed three local foundations—the Pittsburgh Foundation, the Heinz Endowments and the Richard King Mellon Foundation—to buy the center for $ 8.49 million, clearing it of all previous …
Read more on American Theatre

August Wilson Center Sold for a Song
However, more changes than simply clearing all of the existing debts will be needed. The operations of the center were a consistently losing proposition, though reports indicate that the center's fiscal management might have been significantly substandard.
Read more on The Nonprofit Quarterly

China's maritime threat: How India let its best bet Vizhinjam be sabotaged
However, from Sri Lanka's point of view, they may simply be paying off debts incurred during their civil war, when China, free of considerations about human rights and so on, supplied them with military equipment. Besides, China has built a major port …
Read more on Firstpost

Growth ambition lacking for mid-sized businesses
Finance once used for fuelling expansion is now being focussed on clearing debts, with firms looking at stability ahead of potential uncertainty in 2015. Rhodes adds, 'This issue poses some difficult questions: just what needs to be done to inspire and …
Read more on GrowthBusiness.co.uk

EnglishFrenchGermanItalianPortugueseRussianSpanish