Did you know that the ancient St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican is also known as Constantine Basilica?

See Raphael's "Incendio di Borgo". In perspective in the center, the pope from the window of a building that flanks the ancient St Peter's Basilica gives his blessing to the people.

[speaker]The ancient Basilica of San Pietro in Vatican, also known as Constantine’s Basilica, was located in the same area occupied by the existing building currently. It was founded by Constantine, immediately after that of San Giovanni in Laterano, during the pontificate of Pope Silvestro I (314-335).


Vatican - St Peter's Ancient Basilica


The location, which gave considerable problems to the construction, was chosen to build the church on the burial of the apostle Peter, marked by a “memory”, that is, by a small shrine placed in a vast necropolis at the foot of the Vatican hill.

The history of the Constantinian Basilica was long, characterized by historical events such as the coronation of Charlemagne on the Christmas night of the year 800 and dramatic moments such as the sacking of the Saracens of 846.

Over the centuries the basilica was flanked by other buildings and adorned with countless works of art.

In the fifteenth century Pope Nicholas V began to carry out a profound renovation of the building complex which complained of a state of decay. At the beginning of the sixteenth century the total reconstruction was decided and therefore the ancient basilica was slowly demolished to make room for the new basilica on a grandiose project by Bramante wanted by Pope Julius II.

The long construction site continued between economic difficulties and controversies until the beginning of the seventeenth century when the surviving nave of the Constantinian Basilica was definitively demolished by the will of Pope Paul V and the new basilica completed.