St. Peter's Cupola
The entrance to the cupola tour is on the north side of St.Peter's. This is one place where you get an idea of the size of the church, and this section goes up only part way.
The panorama from the dome showcases Rome from it's highest point.
This is the roof of the Sistine Chapel. It's not as beautiful as Michelangelo's ceiling inside but does protect that important piece of Art. To give you an idea of scale, consider the Vatican Museums behind the chapel are in a six-story building.
The round structure in the distance is Castel Sant Angelo, a fortress, that was originally Hadrian's Tomb. To the left you will see the Vatican Corridor, a fortified wall with a passage on top to allow the Pope to get from his quarters to the safety of the fortress. Over the centuries the route has been used when Rome was invaded.
Here you see the central part of Rome. The Pantheon can be seen in the middle, and you get an idea of it's size. The internal diameter is actually greater than that of St. Peter's dome.
The stairways up to and down from the cupola are inside the wall of the dome. In places you have to lean to the side to fit within the slope of the walls. Several spiral staircases are used. The one just before you reach the top is so narrow there is no room for a railing: you grasp a thick rope that hangs down the center of the steps.
This picture shows the roof above the nave on the south side. The wells and cupolas provide light for side domes below.