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The new basilica had initially been conceived as a large square surmounted by a dome which, supported by grandiose pillars, had to be hoisted upwards, almost suspended in space. From the same dome four Greek cross arms departed, ending in a round apse, and outside in a straight line.
— http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_pietro/it/basilica/cenni_storici.htm

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