The St. Peter’s Basilica is an architectural gem in Vatican City and a very popular tourist attraction. The mosaics that line the interior of the structure are considered breath-taking, especially those that are found in on the dome. The dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was completed in 1590 by Giacomo Della Porta. The Basilica was completed in the fifth year of the pontificate of Sixtus V (r. 1585-90).
However, it was only three years later, in 1593, that the work on the dome mosaics was commenced. The mosaics were created by various artists and depict several scenes, including the 16 pope-saints buried within the basilica. The base of the done also has a long inscription with two-meter-high letters. It reads of the verse Matthew: 16-18 KJV. In English, it translates to ‘Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven.’
Here is an overview and description of the 16 pope-saints depicted on the Dome Mosaics in St. Peter’s Basilica:
1) James the Lesser
James is called ‘The Lesser’ to avoid confusion with the other Apostle named James. It may be because he was younger or shorter. The mother of James The Lesser stood with Mary on the day of Jesus’s crucifixion. He is honored and celebrated on May 3.
2) James the Greater
James the Greater, along with his brothers John and Peter were favorites of the Lord. While known as someone with a short temper, he later preached about Jesus after Pentecost. He was the first person to be arrested and put to death around 44 AD for his faith in Christ.
3) Simon the Zealot
Simon the Zealot was born in the 1st century and supposedly died 65 or 107 AD. He is one of the Twelve Apostles by may not be associated with ‘The Zealot’, a Jewish nationalistic party. October 28th is the day his legacy is celebrated.
4) Thomas The Apostle
One of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus, Judas Thomas was also known as ‘Doubting Thomas’. He had doubted Jesus’ resurrection when he first heard about it. However, he later confessed his faith when he saw Jesus’ crucifixion wounds. His feast day is July 3.
5) Bartholomew The Apostle
Bartholomew was one of the Twelve Apostles who carried the name of Christianity in the early 1st century. However, there is very little known or mentioned about Bartholomew, including his contributions.
6) Thaddaeus The Apostle
Thaddaeus the Apostle is another name for Jude, one of the Twelve Apostles mentioned in the New Testament. He is also known as Jude of James, Judas Thaddaeus, Jude Thaddaeus, or Lebbbaeus. His feast day is 28th October in Western Christianity.
7) John The Baptist
John the Baptist, is also known as John the Immerser and prophet John (in Islam). He is a major figure in Christianity and Islam. He is said to have been sentenced to death by beheading around AD 30, according to the New Testament.
8) The Redeemer
The Redeemer speaks of Christ the Redeemer and is the same as the statue found in Rio de Genaro. The mosaic describes a being of peace and the acceptance of everyone in the world.
9) The Virgin Mary
The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus and the wife of Joseph. Also know as Virgin Mary, she plays an important part in the Christian faith. The last known mention of Mary was after Jesus’ crucifixion, praying with the other devotees.
10) Peter The Apostle
Simon Peter, St. Peter, Cephas, or Peter the Apostle is one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. He was one of the first early Church leaders and was crucified upside down. This was because he felt unworthy of dying the same way as Jesus Christ.
Paul the Apostle is also known as St. Paul and by his Hebrew name, Saul of Tarsus. While not part of the Twelve Apostles, Paul was an important figure in the Apostolic Age. He founded several Christian communities in Europe and Asia Minor.
12) John The Evangelist
John the Evangelist is the author of the Gospel of John. He is also known as John of Patmos and John the Presbyter. He was said to have been plunged into boiling oil and came out unharmed. This act helped the crowd became Christian converts.
13) Saint Andrew
St. Andrew is brothers with St. Peter. He was the first apostle that was called by Jesus and also the first to claim Jesus to be the Messiah. He was martyred in 60 AD in Patras, Achaea by crucifixion.
14) Philip The Apostle
Philip the Apostle, according to the New Testament, was one of the Twelve Apostles of Christ. It’s said that he preached the word of God in Syria, Phrygia, and Greece. He was martyred in 80 AD and his feast day is 3 May.
15 Matthew The Apostle
Saint Matthew is also known as Matthew the Apostle and Levi. He was one of the Twelve Apostles and is known as the patron saint of tax collectors and accountants. It’s said that he became a missionary and was arrested in Ethiopia where he was staked and beheaded.
After the betrayal of Jesus by Judas Iscariot, the apostles picked Matthias as a replacement. There is little information on what he did after his election. However, some claim that he traveled to other countries to spread the name of Jesus. He died in Jerusalem of old age and his feast day is May 14.