About the Vatican

Top 5 facts about St. Peter’s Dome

St. Peter's Dome

1) Magical illusion

Looking for magic in the Eternal City? Set atop a residential hillside lies a street with truly spectacular views of St. Peter’s Dome. From Via Niccolò Piccolomini, enjoy the magical illusion of seeing the Dome appear closer as you move farther away and appear further away as you move closer. An illusion of perspective, this view of the Dome is a perfect way to begin a day touring Rome.

2) Designed by Michelangelo

While quite a few masters including Bramante, Bernini, and Raphael contributed to the beauty of St. Peter’s Basilica, it was Michelangelo alone who designed the magnificent Dome. Remarkably, he started this project at the age of 71 years old. When Michelangelo died in 1564, his student successfully continued his vision, allowing the Dome’s completion in 1590. A model for numerous other domes including the United States Capitol Building, St. Peter’s Dome has a height of 136 meters and an internal diameter of 42 meters.

3) Stairs worth climbing

Arguably most of the interesting ways to experience St. Peter’s Dome is by climbing its 491 stairs to the top. With a narrow, dark, cramped stairwell and a rope to hold onto, this climb is best for those who are as curious as they are energetic. Walks Inside Rome offers a variety of family-friendly Vatican tours, which can be concluded with the unique challenge of climbing to the top of St. Peter’s Dome.

Keyhole view of St. Peter's Dome

4) Picturesque keyhole view

Along with its lush rose gardens, vibrant orange orchards, and stunning homes, Aventine Hill also boasts a truly unique keyhole view of St. Peter’s Dome. Villa del Priorato di Malta and its expansive estate lies at the top of Aventine Hill. A typically locked doorway leading to the Villa’s gardens has an ancient keyhole, from which exists an absolutely picturesque view of the Dome. Experiencing this extraordinary keyhole view is essential for anyone looking for a “bella vista”. 

5) Great inspiration

St. Peter’s Dome was undoubtedly inspired by the Pantheon. Only a few kilometers away from the Dome, the Pantheon was built in 125AD, centuries earlier. Not only did the magnificent Pantheon greatly influence the design of the Dome, there is speculation that much of the bronze used to create the canopy within St. Peter’s Basilica came directly from the Pantheon’s roof. Walks Inside Rome offers wonderful, authentic tours of the Pantheon and St. Peter’s Basilica.