Those venturing to the Vatican City for their first time often want to experience the wondrous architecture on display, as well as learn all about the different locations such as the Vatican museums, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square and, of course, St. Peter’s Basilica. But without being on a Vatican private tour, you might miss out.
This is particularly true of St. Peter’s Basilica. Despite being one of the most popular attractions in the Vatican, there is very little in the way of interpretative materials on display in what is often called the greatest of all Christendom’s churches. For those just arriving armed with their camera, the Basilica can be disappointing without a contextual understanding of the near 400-year-old holy shrine. It’s exactly why guided tours of Italy and private Vatican tours are so important – especially when it comes to St. Peter’s – because a local, knowledgeable Vatican tour guide can enlighten you on all the sights you are seeing. While the sights are absolutely astonishing, it is the context that gives the statutes and decorations life. Perhaps the most spectacular sight to behold is St. Peter’s Baldachin which stands about 66-feet tall. This sculpted canopy sits over the high altar at the center of the church’s crossing and directly underneath the basilica’s dome. The reason for the altar’s placement is said to have been a deliberate choice as it is apparently centered above where St. Peter himself was said to have been buried in a tomb below.
Another of the most popular sights within St. Peter’s Basilica is the statue of St. Peter. Again, without the context provided by a Vatican private tour guide, this might just look like a statue with a slightly worn right foot. But the reason behind why it is so worn is because over hundreds of years, pilgrims visiting the basilica would bend their knee and kiss St Peter’s foot. This is particularly because the statue depicts St. Peter giving a blessing while holding the keys to the kingdom of heaven. According to the Gospel of Matthew 16.19, Jesus gave the keys to Peter. As such, popular culture has cast St. Peter as the gatekeeper of heaven, standing ready by the wrought-iron gates to either allow or deny access to the holy kingdom. This is perhaps why so many are keen to show their love and respect for St. Peter in his statuesque form. So much so that years of worship have worn down the bronze statue’s toes. Despite most visitors opting to touch St. Peter’s right foot today, the contact still continues to wear down the bronze. These are just some of the insights you can gain when on a private Vatican tour.
Despite there being many considerations for those speaking non-native languages such as English, private tours of Rome can facilitate fuller, more vibrant explanations than any translation or guide book could possibly hope to achieve. So if you are very excited to see St. Peter’s Basilica, you should definitely invest in a Vatican private tour.