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Basilica-sacred place

The Saint Peters Basilica
The panel decorated the central door of the first Saint Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter’s Basilica took almost two centuries to plan and build, beginning in the 1400s. Its history involves twenty-seven popes and many architects. The basilica was built on one of the most sacred (holy) sites in the Christian world. In Christian tradition, it is the burial place of Saint Peter. Peter was one of the twelve apostles, the close companions of Jesus Christ. After Jesus’s death about a.d. 36, Peter became the leader of Christianity. This was the name of the new religion based on the teachings of Jesus. According to tradition, Peter traveled to Rome to preach Christianity.

In the first century a.d., Rome was an empire-a large group of lands ruled by one central leader. It had its own religion, which was a very important part of Roman culture and politics. As Christianity began to attract followers, Roman leaders saw the new religion as a threat. They began to imprison and execute Christians. In a.d. 64, the Roman emperor Nero ordered the execution of Peter. After Peter’s death, his followers buried him near the Circus of Nero, a public gathering place in northwest Rome.

Early Christians built a small shrine over Peter’s grave. Then, in a.d. 326, Emperor Constantine ordered the construction of a church on the site. Constantine was Rome’s first Christian emperor. His church was a basilica, a large church that held special ceremonies.

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