Among the many masterpieces inside St. Peter's Basilica, Michelangelo's majestic and moving La Pietà is perhaps the crown jewel. This remarkable life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Christ blends classical ideals of beauty with startling naturalism and is among the world’s most important works of art.
Michelangelo carved La Pietà from a single block of Carrara marble in the late 1490s, and it is the only work the artist signed. Created as a funeral monument for the French cardinal Jean de Bilhères, the statue was moved to its current location in St. Peter’s Basilica in the 18th century. After being damaged by a vandal in 1972, La Pietà was placed behind a protective glass screen.
Choose an early entrance or skip-the-line tour of St. Peter's Basilica to benefit from the knowledge of a guide and avoid a long wait to enter this popular sight. Tours of the basilica are often combined with a visit to St. Peter’s Dome or the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, where more of Michelangelo's works can be seen. Extended Vatican tours may also include the Vatican Gardens, Necropolis, and Bramante’s Staircase.
Things to Know Before You Go
- A visit to La Pietà is a must for art enthusiasts.
- You must pass through a security check to access St. Peter’s Basilica, and items like pocket knives, corkscrews, and umbrellas are not allowed.
- The dress code in the basilica requires covered shoulders and knees.
- The basilica and the chapel where La Pietà is displayed are accessible to wheelchairs.
- Photography is allowed inside St. Peter’s Basilica, though the glare from the protective glass makes it hard to get a good snapshot of the famous sculpture.
How to Get There
St. Peter’s Basilica is located on St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) in Vatican City. The closest metro station is Ottaviano. La Pietà stands in the first chapel on the right when you enter the basilica.
When to Get There
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most popular attractions in Rome and crowded most of the year. Early morning is the best time to visit to beat the crowds and enjoy the beauty of the largest church in the world and the art inside virtually to yourself.
Highlights of St. Peter’s Basilica
In addition to Michelangelo’s stunning masterpiece, the basilica is home to a number of important works of art. Be sure to admire Bernini’s ornate Papal altar and baldacchino, as well as his equestrian statue of Constantine. The interior of the church is covered with over 100,000 square feet (9,290 square meters) of mosaics, much of which reproduce famous Renaissance paintings, including Raphael’s Transfiguration. Another work of note is the funerary monument dedicated to Clement XIII, created by Canova at the end of the 18th century and famous for its meticulously sculpted lions.