The Vatican, Italy
"The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter (Latin: Basilica Sancti Petri), officially known in Italian as the Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano and commonly known as St. Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. St. Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world, holding 60,000 people. It is regarded as one of the holiest Christian sites. It has been described as "holding a unique position in the Christian world" and as "the greatest of all churches of Christendom". In Catholic tradition, it is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and, according to tradition, first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession.
Bernini's "Cathedra Petri" and "Gloria"
"Tradition and some historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica. For this reason, many Popes have been interred at St Peter's since the Early Christian period. There has been a church on this site since the 4th century. Construction of the present basilica, over the old Constantinian basilica, began on April 18, 1506 and was completed on November 18, 1626.
"St. Peter's is famous as a place of pilgrimage, for its liturgical functions and for its historical associations. It is associated with the papacy, with the Counter-reformation and with numerous artists, most significantly Michelangelo. As a work of architecture, it is regarded as the greatest building of its age. Contrary to popular misconception, Saint Peter's is not a cathedral, as it is not the seat of a bishop. It is properly termed a papal basilica" (Wikipedia, Link 1).
The obelisk in the right of the photo above is 90 feet of solid granite and weighs more than 300 tons. It was originally erected in Egypt more than 2,000 years ago. Emperor Caligula moved it to imperial Rome. (Rick Steve's "Rome".) Saints parade along the top of the colonnade of pillars encompassing St. Peter's Square.
Colonnade of Saints
If you want your choir to sing as part of one of the services it can be arranged through a tour agency such as Ambassador Tours, Link 2. A Connecticut choir performed there this April. And although the planning is a bit complicated, you can even have your wedding in St. Peter's wedding chapel. The Santa Susanna web site can help that happen, (Link 3).
Tips from Rick Steves' book Rome-Miss the long line ups to tour the Basilica by going at 5 pm. At this time the crowd that waits in the line ringing St. Peter's Square is gone and you can "go right in". To miss the three block long line ups that hug the walls of the Vatican waiting to go into the Vatican Museum buy your tickets at the Information Office next to the Basilica. Pay the extra 4 euros for express tickets and then you can "go right in" at the Museum as well. You don't have to wait until 5 pm to take advantage of this time saver.
Note: Suzanne and Alan Wilson were part of the throng of worshipers, under a sea of umbrellas, in St. Peter's Square on Easter Sunday, 2010.
Link 1: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/st._Peter%27s_Basilica
Link 2: http://www.ambassador-tours.com/pilgrimage-tours.htm
Photos: Taken in Rome, Italy April 2010 by SW.