St. Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter's Square, Vatican City near Rome, Italy
Saint Peter’s Square, Vatican City near Rome, Italy

The Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican is the formal name of the principal church of the Roman Catholic Church.  St. Peter’s Square leads you to the Basilica, and after a security check, the massive Renaissance cathedral is not only a spiritual pilgrimage site, but an architectural wonder as well.   I visited during an Easter week, but the crowds were manageable.   I didn’t see the Pope at the Vatican, but did make it to the Stations of the Cross held on Good Friday each year outside of the Roman Colosseum – here’s a photo of what it looked like while sitting on a nearby hill.

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Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Stations of the Cross outside of the Colosseum in Rome, Italy.

The Basilica site was chosen on the location it was believed Saint Peter was buried after he was martyred in October 64 A.D.  The first Basilica was built in the early 300s, but the replacement you see today was started in 1506 and completed more than a century later.  There are several masterpieces of art inside, including Michelangelo’s Pieta. Thanks to an attack with a hammer in 1972, the famous sculpture is now seen through a glass panel.

 

In addition to the Basilica, the Vatican Museums are a must see, and a visit includes the Sistine Chapel.

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Saint Sulpice

Place Saint Sulpice, Paris, France
Place Saint Sulpice, Paris, France

There are several large, ornate churches in Paris that I’d never heard of before I visited.  Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic Church a bit away from the main tourist areas but it’s the second largest church in Paris, France, after Notre Dame. The Romanesque church now in this spot (replacing an earlier building) was started in 1646.  It features a spectacular Great Organ dating from 1862 and is used for regular organ concerts in addition to Mass.

St. Vitus

St. Vitus Cathedral or St. Wenceslas and St. Adalbert Cathedral, Prague, Czech Republic
St. Vitus Cathedral (or Cathedral of Saints Vitus,  Wenceslas and Adalbert), Prague, Czech Republic

This church is a little older than the average.  Saint Vitus Cathedral is in central Prague and is the third church on this site.  Construction of this gothic cathedral started in 1344 when the the King of Bohemia wanted a church for coronations, royal burials, and a treasury for the most valuable relics of the kingdom.  Work on different parts of this massive church continued at various times over the next 600 hundred years and was considered finally finished in 1929.  There is a lot of history online with more details and a virtual tour on the church’s website.  In 1997 the church was rededicated as the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saints Vitus, Wenceslaus and Adalbert.