One of the wonders of travelling is getting a glimpse into how another culture worships. Whether I visit a church, synagogue or mosque, it gives me a little insight into the country and its people. Often these buildings were erected by renowned architects and enhanced with the most treasured art, allowing us to witness the glories of a civilization. This month I’ll be recalling my visits to some of the loveliest places of worship we’ve seen on our travels.
It’s hard to imagine what I could write about St. Peter’s Basilica that hasn’t already been written. So let me start with the size. It’s one of the largest Christian churches ever built, with an interior size of almost six acres. And if required, it can hold 60,000 people. Ironically, it’s located in Vatican City, the smallest country in the world.
The best-known and most precious piece of art held in the Basilica is Michelangelo’s Pieta. Carved when he was only 24, it’s a depiction of Mary holding Christ after the crucifixion. Pieta is the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed.
St. Peter’s Square is equally enormous. If the crowds are larger than the 60,000 that the basilica can handle, then the piazza holds an additional 300,000. The obelisk in the middle of the piazza was brought from Egypt and the colonnade is lined with the statues of 140 saints. The photo at the top of this post portrays the statue of St Peter, who was allegedly crucified here.
As with most things that are huge, it’s truly difficult to get a sense of size. To give you a better idea, the photo above shows St. Peter’s Basilica; the photo below is a close-up of the columns.