Grand domeThe dome of St. Peter’s Basilica is the tallest in the world, at a towering 136 metres. It was created to crown the grandest and most divine example of church building in all of Christendom.
In order to complete this task, notes were taken from earlier celebrated domes: the columns of the ancient Pantheon
, and the oval shape of the early Renaissance Florence Cathedral
. The inside of the dome is ornately decorated all around with mosaics, and the roof has windows which let in rays of light, giving the impression that it shines directly from heaven. The design plans for the dome were changed a number of times over the years, as the artists in charge handed over responsibility (or died). Michelangelo modified the design of Bramante and Sangallo, then Giacomo della Porta came along with his own ideas and altered the plan once again.
Views from the heavens
You can access the dome at the side of St. Peter’s Basilica. While entry to the Basilica is free, the Dome costs €5 on foot and €7 to use the elevator. If you choose to go on foot you should be aware of a number of things. Firstly, there are 551 steps in total to reach the top. This is a tough climb. Then, once you reach the top of the inside of the Dome you will see just how extremely high up it really is; though there are secure rails and guards all around it is not for the faint hearted - you will notice some moving black dots on the ground below you; those are people!
From there you can access the roof of the Basilica which is even higher up, but which has some of the best views of the city you will find anywhere. There is a café atop the roof where visitors can take a break and enjoy a snack. You can also have a sneaky peek down into the Vatican City, which you are not allowed to enter as a tourist. Highly recommended for the more adventurous traveller.