A journey through time to discover the history of the largest and most famous Basilica in the world. From the ancient area of the gardens of Agrippina, passing through the Constantinian building and ending with the modern Basilica dominated by Michelangelo’s superb dome and enriched by the splendid colonnade of Bernini, virtual reality will allow you to visualize and understand the steps of this long, laborious, and fascinating architectural history.
But it is not all: a few hundred meters from the Basilica of St. Peter, another building stands and awaits you to reveal two millennia of history and transformations: Castel Sant’Angelo.
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In the first century A.D. some noble families chose this area as an ideal place to build their horti, in other words, the elegant country villas typical of the period, the most famous being those of Agrippìna the Elder , situated to the south of today’s Basilica. When Agrippina died in 33 A.D. , her son, the famous ruthless emperor Caligula, inherited the property and, precisely in the area where the Basilica of Saint Peter was later to stand, he had a circus built which was 540 metres long and 100 metres wide. It was reserved for the entertainment of his court and guests, but, on special occasions, it was opened to the people of Rome so that they could attend the performances. In 64 A.D. the famous fire of Rome broke out, when Nero reigned, so he turned his circus into a macabre place for cruel executions. This was how the most famous Christian of that time was killed, Peter the Apostle.
When, at the beginning of the IV century A.D., Constantine the Great became emperor, he decided to build a large Basilica, over the site of the Vaticànum necropolis, which was therefore buried underground, but in such a way as to ensure that it remained well-preserved.
The building of the basilica of Constantine was completed at the end of the IV century. The result was not only a place of worship which could house thousands of believers, but also a gigantic funerary monument for Peter the Apostle and for all those who had wanted to be buried as near to him as possible.
In the mid fifteenth century, the city fell into disrepair and even the basilica, by then, risked collapse. Although at the beginning of the 1500s some restoration works had been entrusted to Bramànte. In 1546, on the death of his predecessor, the work was handed over to Michelangelo, who designed a splendid dome that could become the symbol of the basilica and make it famous around the world. Despite the fact that he tried in every possible way to finish the dome, so that no-one after him should work on it, at his death, in 1564, it had not been completed.
In the following period, the Church did not possess great economic resources, so it was not until 1589 that Giàcomo della Pòrta and his fellow architect Domènico Fontàna completed the chapels on the four corners of the basilica, the façade and the magnificent dome. With the election to the pontificate of Alexander VII, the architect Bernini was charged with making the basilica something unique in the world. Bernini made some of his most extraordinary works, both inside and outside the basilica, first of all the colonnade of San Pietro.
Castel Sant’Angelo, the fortress built on the antique Mausoleum of Hadrian, is closely linked to the history of the Vatican and its basilica. The emperor himself, in about 123 A.D. planned his eternal resting place and chose this area since, unique at that time, it was vast enough to house his immense monument and the gardens which were to surround it. In 271 A.D. Emperor Aurelian decided to transform the mausoleum into a fortified outpost and so from then on the building was no longer used as a tomb.
The definitive change and connection with the papacy came about in 590 A.D. when Rome was struck by a serious epidemic of the plague . Pope Gregory the Great, during a religious procession that he had organized, had a vision, precisely in front of the fortress, of Michael the Archangel drawing his sword. This was interpreted as a sign of the imminent end of the plague, which effectively happened, and from then on, the monument became known as Castel Sant’Angelo and a chapel dedicated to the angel was erected on the top of the fortress. In 1277, Pope Nicholas III, who chose it as his residence, carried out restoration work and improvements in the interior: he also had an 800 –metre fortified corridor built, known as “passètto di borgo” which connected, and still now connects, the castle to the basilica of Saint Peter, so as to provide an escape route for the pope in case of danger. From the beginning of the fifteenth century to the end of the eighteenth century, the castle underwent restoration work several times, extensions and decorative work were realized.
Start the demo and use the sliders to look around (you’ll find them in the video, on the top left)! In person, in addition to this amazing reconstruction, you will experience the sensation of being completely immersed in the virtual reality of ancient Rome, thanks to VR headsets and the feeling of a three-dimensional environment!
Have you ever tried virtual reality headsets? Do you know what to expect and are you ready to travel through time? Or is this your first time considering a guided tour with this technology and you want to learn more? We want your experience to be exciting, just as it is for us to do this work, and that’s why we invite you to contact us to build together the program that suits you, your family, your friends, or the institution you represent.