St. Peter’s Basilica is officially the second largest basilica in the world and the biggest church in Italy. It is the principle Basilica of the Catholic church and burial site for many of the past Popes including the very first Pope, St. Peter, who was a disciple of Jesus and was crucified on the very site where St. Peter’s Basilica was built. The original Basilica was built in the 4th Century under the Emperor Constantine the Great and was later rebuilt between 1506 to 1626 with Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini being some of the most well-known architects of St Peter’s as we know it today.
It is an incredible thing to say on your visit to Rome that you have been to mass in St. Peter’s, and this may be easier than you think. To enter the Basilica you must go to St. Peter’s Square where the entrance is on the right side when you stand facing the Basilica. You will have to go through a security check, not unlike at the airport, and then follow the signs to the entrance.
There is often a line to enter the Basilica and the only way to skip this is with a fast pass to St. Peter’s. Keep this in mind if you plan to attend mass at a specific time.
St. Peter’s Basilica is open from 7 am to 7 pm from April to September every day except most Wednesdays when the Pope gives his Papal audience. During this public address, the Basilica is generally closed until around 1 pm. During the winter months (October to March), the basilica is open from 7 am to 6 pm, you will often find the Basilica open as late as 7 pm.
Vatican Mass Times
The basilica itself is large and grand, but you will find that there are two chapels in the Basilica where mass generally takes place:
Altar of St Joseph: if you walk to the main Altar in St. Peter’s and turn directly left and walk to the very end you will find the Altar of St. Joseph, dedicated to the husband of Mary, the mother of Christ.
Altar of the Chair: This is at the very VERY back of the Basilica so prepare for a walk. The sculpted monument was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and the Altar was built to commemorate St Peter’s teachings in Rome.
Monday through Saturday you can attend mass at the following times (take note, these masses will be in Italian, except for the 5 pm mass which will be in Latin):
9 am at the Altar of St Joseph
10 am at the Altar of St Joseph
11 am at the Altar of St Joseph
12 pm at the Altar of St Joseph
5pm at the Altar of St Joseph in Latin
On Sundays you can attend mass at the following times with all of these masses being in Italian:
9 am at the Altar of the Chair
10:30 am at the Altar of the Chair
12:15 am at the Altar of the Chair
1 pm at the Altar of St Joseph
4 pm at the Altar of the Chair
5:30 pm at the Altar of the Chair
For information on Sacraments such as baptism, contact the Parish office by fax at +39 06 698 85793
On Sunday, the Pope leads a crowd in St. Peter’s Square in a prayer known as the Angelus. The Pope greets the crowd at 12 pm from his window in the Apostolic Palace. The words to the prayer are displayed on screens on the square and the crowd is invited to say them along with the Pope. No tickets are required but you should arrive by 11:30 am at the latest.
There is no translation available during mass, but the celebrations and rituals will all be familiar if you have attended Catholic services in other languages.
For more information about general opening times, read our full-length guide to the Vatican hours.