A true work of art, St. Peter's Basilica is the heart of Vatican City, Italy and the spiritual center for Pope John Paul II and the Catholic Church.
The distinctive dome of the Basilica is the crowning glory of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) who said, "My soul can find no staircase to Heaven unless it be through Earth's loveliness."
The great master had just finished the arduous Sistine Chapel ceiling and was 72 years old when he took over as chief architect of the Basilica. He envisioned creating a magnificent dome to unify the massive central piers of the basilica's crossing. He worked on the project, his crowning architectural achievement, "solely for the love of God."
Inspired by the Florence Cathedral dome designed by architect Filippo Brunelleschi, Michelangelo designed his "Duomo" of brick, spanning 138 feet in diameter and rising 450 feet to the sky. Called "Cuppolone" by the Romans, the enormous pointed dome was built without scaffolding and completed by architect Giacomo della Porta 20 years after Michelangelo's death.
"Lord, grant that I may always desire more than I accomplish," Michelangelo once said.
A celebration of faith and inspiration, the dome majestically overlooks panoramic Rome and has been said to be a symbol of authority and a representation of heaven. The masterpiece inspired the creation of domes throughout the world, including the Paris Invalides, St. Paul's in London, and Washington D.C.'s Capitol.
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