Old St. Peter's Basilica

Old St. Peter's Basilica

Old St. Peter's Basilica

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Old Saint Peter's Basilica was the building that stood, from the 4th to 16th centuries, on the spot where the Basilica of Saint Peter stands today in Rome. Construction of the Basilica, built over the historical site of the Circus of Nero, began during the reign of emperor Constantine I. The name Old Saint Peter's Basilica has been used since the construction of the current basilica to distinguish the two buildings.


Construction was begun on the orders of the Roman emperor Constantine I between 326 and 333, and took about 30 years to complete. The design was a typical basilica form. Over the next twelve centuries the church would gradually gain importance, and even become a major place of pilgrimage in Rome.

Papal coronations began to be held here, and in 800, Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. In 846, Saracens sacked and destroyed the basilica, causing retaliation by Lothar. Davis, Raymond, The lives of the ninth-century popes (Liber pontificalis) , (Liverpool University Press, 1995), 96.

The church was rebuilt, but by the 15th century was falling to ruin. Discussions on repairing parts of the structure commenced upon the pope's return from Avignon. Two people involved in this reconstruction were Leone Battista Alberti and Bernardo Rossellino, who improved the apse and partially added a multi-story benediction loggia to the atrium facade, on which...
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