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The northernmost door is the Holy Door, in bronze by Vico Consorti (1950), which is by tradition only opened for great celebrations such as Jubilee years. The top reads PAVLVS V PONT MAX ANNO XIII, the one just above the door reads GREGORIVS XIII PONT MAX.In between are white slabs commemorating the most recent openings.The four piers of the crossing that support the dome are each 60 feet (18 meters) across.Uniquely, Michelangelo's dome is not a hemisphere, but a parabola: it has a vertical thrust, which is made more emphatic by the bold ribbing that springs from the paired Corinthian columns, which appear to be part of the drum, but which stand away from it like buttresses, to absorb the outward thrust of the dome's weight. Built from 1608 to 1614, it was designed by Carlo Modeno. Two clocks are on either side; the one on the left is electrically operated since 1931, with its oldest bell dating to 1288.It was too small for its new space, so panels were added at the top and bottom. The bas-reliefs between the framed panels show scenes from the pontificate of Eugene IV, and representatives at the Council of Ferrara-Florence, summoned in 1438 to reunite the Churches of the East and of the West.
Peter's Basilica stands on the traditional site where Peter - the apostle who is considered the first pope - was crucified and buried. Peter's tomb is under the main altar and many other popes are buried in the basilica as well. Peter's Basilica was rebuilt in the 16th century by Renaissance masters including Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini. Peter's Basilica hosted the Circus of Nero and a cemetery. Peter was martyred in the Circus and buried nearby.
Between the obelisk and each fountain is a circular stone that marks the focal points of an ellipse. Some of the apostles are at the far end of the colonnade, outside the square and down the street: look for Paul and John on the south side (on the left as you walk to the square). Near the stairs to the basilica at the front of the square are colossal statues of Sts. These were ordered by Pope Pius IX on Easter 1847, who wanted to replace the existing smaller ones.