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The Vatican is essentially Roman. With over 2,000 years of history, no other place incorporates so much politics, history, religion and art, all in a relatively small space. Each century visibly overlapped the last, forming a grand historical layer cake.

St. Peter's Square ( Piazza San Pietro ) and St. Peter's Basilica are Rome's main attractions, in addition to the ancient district. You can visit the basilica and square in an hour or so (the lines are very long and there are security checks, so getting inside can take a long time). However, if you want to see Vatican City, the museums and Saint Angel's Castle (Castel Sant'Angelo), you should have a full day free to do so.

The construction of St. Peter's Basilica, late Renaissance style, took over a hundred years and was finally completed in 1626. It is one of the largest churches in the world. The interior is very impressive, with huge domes and walls richly decorated with paintings and sculptures.

It is believed that the Basilica was built on the burial site of Saint Peter - his tomb is situated next to the altar. The Egyptian obelisk in the center of the square was originally placed in Nero's Circus and was probably a witness to the crucifixion of Saint Peter. According to the Bible, he was nailed down to the cross because he felt unworthy to die like Jesus.

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Vatican City sits on a large hill. The name comes from the Latin Mons Vaticanus and predates Christianity. The building complex was built over a first-century "circus" built by Emperor Caligula. The area was expanded by Emperor Nero, who used it for games and the persecution of Christians and other non-pagans. It was under Nero that Saint Peter was martyred in the circus complex. He was buried nearby on the Vatican Hill, and it was this tomb that became the center of Christianity.

In 326, Emperor Constantine built the first Christian temple above the tomb of Saint Peter. This became the heart of the Catholic church, and over the centuries the area around the basilica was expanded. The original building was demolished and rebuilt from the papacy of Julius II in 1506 onwards. What we call the Vatican today is basically a Renaissance plan.

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