San Pietro Porta Sancta

The Holy Door of St. Peter

The Holy Door (in Latin, porta sancta) of St. Peter's Basilica in Rome is the northernmost door of the Basilica.  By tradition, it is walled up by bricks and only opened for Holy Years, such as the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy, as designated by the Holy Father.

In preparation for the Holy Year of 1950, Pope Pius XII held an international competition to design three new holy doors for St. Peter's Basilica.  Italian sculptor Vico Consorti joined and won the competition for the Holy Door.

The door, consisting of 16 bronze panels, is also called the Door of Great Pardon, as each panel depicts scenes of man's sin and God's redemption and mercy.

In the first row, we see the sin of Adam and Eve and their expulsion from the Garden by an angel contrasted with the redemption of man by the Incarnation announced by an angel.

In the second row, we see the Baptism of Jesus, the Sacrament in which we are adopted as sons and daughters of God.  In the second panel, Christ seeks the lost sheep.  In the third panel, we see an illustration of the Father's mercy with a depiction of the return of the prodigal son taken from Luke 15.  In the final panel, we see Christ healing the man paralyzed: "Rise, take up your pallet, and walk," (John 5:8).

In the third row, Jesus opens the door of new life to the woman who is sinful but can love; Jesus tells Peter says that one must forgive seventy times seven times. Jesus trusts anew in the man who promises fidelity and then denies him; Jesus opens the door of heaven to the thief who calls on him.

In the fourth row, Jesus unlocks the heart of doubting Thomas to the faith; he gives his Spirit to the Apostles to enable them to forgive sins; he tumbles Paul from his horse and suddenly opens up a whole new world to him; he knocks at everyone's door and waits for us to open it.