Steeped in Christian tradition and history, Vatican City is one of the most-visited pilgrimage sites in the world. The 109-acre walled enclave lies within the city of Rome and is a sovereign city-state as well as the seat of the papacy. Its centerpiece is St. Peter’s Basilica, built over the site where tradition says that St. Peter was crucified and buried. In front of the basilica lies St. Peter’s Square, designed by the artist Bernini in the seventeenth century in the shape of arms spread open to embrace the world.
Vatican City is full of artistic as well as religious treasures, including the ceiling frescos of the Sistine Chapel and the Pieta, both by Michelangelo. Among its newest places of veneration is the tomb of Pope John Paul II, located less than 100 feet from the tomb of St. Peter.
Did You Know? St. Peter’s is built on the site once occupied by the Circus of Nero, where Christians were martyred in the first century.
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Lori Erickson is one of America’s top travel writers specializing in spiritual journeys. She’s the author of the Near the Exit: Travels With the Not-So-Grim Reaper and Holy Rover: Journeys in Search of Mystery, Miracles, and God. Her website Spiritual Travels features holy sites around the world.