How was this enormous, luxurious building paid for?
1. The Peter Penny
2. The Indulgences
3. Gold and Silver from the newly discovered Latin America
When was it built?
Construction began in 1506 and was completed in 1626. Consider how these dates overlap with remarkable changes in European conceptions of the world (Columbus died in 1506; Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the wall in 1517; Moctezuma was conquered by Cortes in 1521; Pizarro conquered the Inca in 1532)
Who had access?
This is a tricky question. On the one hand, we can consider who had the right to become a priest, a bishop, a pope. On the other, we can consider who was permitted to enter this space.
What purpose did it serve?
The obvious purpose is that it was a holy space for Catholics the world over. What other purposes were fulfilled here? Political? Artistic? Economic? There are good arguments for each of these roles being fulfilled by St. Peter’s.