Monday, July 27, 2009
The Vatican was the final stop in Rome. We took the bus across town. We got there a little later than anticipated due to my stopping at the fabric store. We arrived at our stop but I really couldn't tell which direction to go. I saw a young man with a collar and I told Kim to "Follow that priest. He's going to the same place we are". Well that didn't turn out to be true. We followed him for a couple of blocks. He turned into a McDonald's. We were going the direct opposite direction as the Vatican. As the bus was driving over the Tiber River, I saw to the right the Castel Sant'Angelo. It was such a massive structure that I thought that was the Vatican Museum. The priest was going in the right direction to head to the Castle. However, the Vatican was on our left. How I missed it, I don't know. It is really hard to miss. It is overwhelming. I didn't have a very good map of the Vatican and since I really hadn't studied up on it, we decided to get into the longest line. This was the line to get into St Peter's. The line moved quickly. You needed to go thru security before you could enter the church. It is really hard to show how massive of a complex the Vatican is via pictures. The marble structures inside St Peters are some of the largest pieces of art I have ever seen. It was interesting to find that so many men we had met were named Peter. There was also lot's of references to St Peter. "I am like San Pietro". The Italian people hold St Peter and their Catholic faith close to their hearts.
One of the first things you see as you enter St Peter's is Michelangelo's Pieta. This sculpture of Mary holding the body of Jesus is behind bullet proof glass. Michelangelo was an astonishing 24 year old when he sculpted this. Bernini was another sculpture who has work in San Pietro. It took Bernini nine years to create the 98 foot, seven story canopy that covers the main alter over St Peter's tomb. Along the side of the church is the tomb of Pope Alexander VII. Bernini had carved the tomb out of different marbles. The sculpture has a draped effect that is so lifelike.
After we finished up with the Basillica, we headed outside and around the complex to the Vatican Museums. I think we had about an hour and a half before closing time. The walk to the entrance to the museum was a brisk 10-15 minute walk. Once inside, there was a 30 minute brisk walk snaking your way thru the museum to the Sistine Chapel. I didn't really take time to stop and look at everything since it was a priority to see the Sistine Chapel. I know I'll get rotten tomatoes thrown at me but the chapel was a letdown for me. By the time we got there, I was hot, sweaty and tired. Also, there were a lot of other sweaty tourists. There is just a few benches that people can sit on but they were full. So, you stand in the middle of the chapel and you stare directly upwards. I couldn't do it for more than maybe 30 seconds. I would get dizzy staring upwards. I also really needed some fresh air. Like viewing the Mona Lisa or Whistler's Mother, the artwork isn't quite how you picture it's going to be. It was also a weird feeling to know that the Sistine Chapel is the Pope's private chapel. The place is just packed with people. It is hard to imagine it being a place where the Pope goes to pray. Pictures are not allowed in most places in the museum.
The pictures that are shown are the Vatican gardens taken from a window in the museum. An emblem on the floor of St Peter's Basillica in memory of Pope John Paul II. The Vatican is the world's smallest country, home to about 600 people who live inside the walls.