The St. Peter's Basilica Cupola or  Dome soars above the altar and the baldacchino, richly with mosaic and stucco ornaments. It is supported by four structural piers with a perimeter of 71 m. and a height of 120 m. from the ground to the roof of the lantern.
 Around the base of the drum we can read the solemn words from Matthew's Gospel with which Jesus invests Peter with supreme authority. The text reads: "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam mean et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum" ("You are 'Rock' and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 16:18).The big  black letters (2 m. high) of this text on a gold background are lit by the light from 16 large windows, typical of Michelangelo's style, which punctuate the drum.
 Above the windows, the dome is divided into sixteen ribs and as many segments, decorated by majestic figures on six ascending concentric levels.They are as follows:

1. busts of the 16 popes buried in the basilica;
2. majestic figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist and various Apostles;
3. in the rectangular frames, angels bearing the instruments of Jesus' Passion;
4. the faces of cherubim and seraphim in circular medallions;
5. angels, the custodians of St. Peter's tomb
6. additional faces of winged angels.

Above these 96 figures is a blue sky spangled with stars, and above it the lantern at whose base is a Latin inscription: S. PETRI GLORIAE SIXTUS PP. V.A. MDXC PONTIF. V., translates to  "To the glory of St. Peter, Pope Sixtus V in the year 1590, the fifth of his pontificate".The eye then penetrates the lantern which is 18 m. long, and as in a vision come to rest on the glorious figure of God the Father.
  Inside the dome on the way to the stairs to the cupola  are beautiful mosaics made by famous artists.
 To climb the Cupola, visitors can choose to take the stairs  for 5Euro or the elevator for 7 Euro  . Take note that the elevator is only half of the climb and the line is longer. It stops at the roof. Then take the 320 steps going up to the Cupola. My niece and I took the longest route.
 Take note also that as you go up higher the stairs go steeper and smaller(in width).
 But once  on top, you will not feel tired anymore as the view is stupendous. It's all worth the climb. See some  pics below that  I took at the Cupola.
Vatican Gardens
 At the roof, there are restrooms, water fountains, coffee shop and a gift shop. Plus you can walk around and see the huge statues on the facade. This is where  visitors can take a rest before continuing their climb to the dome and/or in going down for those who don't want to take the lift, like us.


 On the way down along the walls of the stairs are inscriptions listing some famous people who visited St. Peter's Basilica. 

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