The construction of the current Basilica which you see today began in 1506 and was completed on the 18th Nov 1626. Construction of the original began by orders of the Roman Emperor Constantine I between 318 and 322, and took about 30 years to complete.
By the 15th century, the church that was originally standing on this site, was falling into ruin. And it was decided that a new and much grander Basilica would be built.
Since the crucifixion and burial of Saint Peter in 64 A.D., the spot was thought to be the location of the tomb of Saint Peter, where a small shrine was located. With its increasing prestige, the church became richly decorated with statues, furnishings and elaborate chandeliers, and side tombs and altars were continuously added.
The structure was filled with tombs and bodies of saints and popes. Bones continued to be found in the construction as late as February 1544.
The majority of these tombs were destroyed during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries during the demolition of the old St. Peter’s Basilica. The remainder were transferred in part to the modern St. Peter’s Basilica, which stands on the site of the original basilica, and a handful of other churches of Rome.
To find out more about the history of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican, check out our Vatican tours with our experienced Vatican tour guides. Our tour guides have an incredible amount of knowledge about the history and architecture of St. Peter’s Basilica.