In 1523 Pope Clement VII appointed a permanent committee of 60 experts and charged them with responsibility for building and administering the basilica. They were to report directly to the Holy See. In 1589 Pope Sixtus V placed this committee under the authority of the Cardinal Archpriest of St Peter’s Basilica, and some years later, during the pontificate of Clement VIII (1592-1605), the committee became an independent administration called the “Congregazione della Reverenda Fabbrica di San Pietro”. The Prefect of this Congregation, which was composed of cardinals and prelates, was the basilica’s Cardinal Archpriest. The Congregation was permitted to nominate annually its own representatives, known as commissioners of the Reverenda Fabbrica, throughout the provinces of the Papal States. The commissioners had their own jurisdiction and were authorized to judge every kind of petition; however, their decrees could be appealed to the Congregation.
In 1863, during the pontificate of Pius IX, the Congregation was no longer allowed to resolve legal disputes, which were transferred to the Congregation of the Council.
After Pius X’s reform in 1908, the Congregation dealt exclusively with managing the Fabbrica and, after Pope Paul VI reformed the Roman Curia in 1967, it was abolished, becoming one of the Palatine Administrations.
In the 1988 Apostolic Constitution “Pastor Bonus”, Pope John Paul II established that “the Fabric of St Peter’s, in accord with its own regulations,” would continue to manage all aspects of the basilica, “with respect to the preservation and decoration of the building and behaviour among the employees and pilgrims who come into the church.”