Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Visiting the Vatican

I didn't know quite what to expect before visiting the Vatican. 

As the world's smallest independent state, ruled over by the pope and high ranking officials of the Catholic faith, I had notions that perhaps the city would be overly religious, gilded in gold, uptight, and extremely rigid. What I found, however, was something completely different.

What I did find is an abundance of culture, covering countless eras and cultures; breathtaking architecture, both inside the Vatican Museum with it's numerous frescoes and carved ceilings, as well as outside in St. Peter's Square; hoards of tourists, queuing for everything from entrance into the basilica, to pizza at lunch, and a glimpse at a famous sculpture or ancient fresco (ok, I did expect the tourists). 

The Vatican museums stood out as a wonderful surprise and easily ranks as my favorite traditional museum we've visited during our trip. The Vatican's treasures are both remarkable and immense, and a visit to the museum provides access to displays featuring ancient Egyptian sarcophagi, Greek pottery, intricate tapestries and mosaics, faded frescoes, amazingly carved marble statues, paintings from the likes of classical masters like Raphael and Michelangelo to modern masters like Dali and Chagall, and everything in between. If that wasn't enough, at some time during your visit, you get a chance to look up at the frescoed ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, easily one of the most famous sites of the Catholic faith and one of art's greatest achievements. 

Greek antiquities and sculpture in the Vatican Museum

Gorgeous paintings and detail

Domed ceiling in the museum

Mosaics cover the floors in the museum

Ancient Egyptian sculpture

Roman bronze statue

In addition to some wonderful exhibits, the museum is well laid out and the vast rooms offer some escape from the thousands of other daily visitors. Although an "express" route is available for those short of time, or only interested in the Sistine Chapel, we decided to take our time (and escape the rain for a bit) and were extremely pleased with the decision. It would have been a shame to rush though such an amazing museum and miss out on some of the lesser known, yet still immensely fascinating, displays. 

Fresco in the one of the Raphael Rooms

After our visit to the museums we made the short walk over to St. Peter's Square, home of the largest church in the world - St. Peter's Basilica. Unfortunately the line for entrance to the basilica stretched around most of the square itself, even so late in the afternoon. Electing not to wait, we didn't get to explore the interior of the basilica. But that wasn't the end of our experience in the Vatican.

Bernini's masterpiece - St. Peter's Square

**Please don't spoil the following part for Nonna - we want to tell her at Christmas

We returned a couple of days later to take in the Pope's regular Papal Audience (Wednesday mornings) in St. Peter's square. Although our main intention during this second visit was to have a rosary blessed for Travis' Nona (the Pope does a general blessing at the end of the address) we found the morning extremely enjoyable, sitting in the sunny square, people watching, surrounded by stunning architecture. Various groups waved flags and banners, bishops and cardinals addressed the crowd, and Pope Benedict gave some general remarks.

Nuns at the Papal Address

The rosary for Nonna at the Papal Address

The Papal Address
There is a reason the St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museum's are on almost every list of sites not to miss while in Rome - they are places of almost unrivaled history and beauty. We thoroughly enjoyed our day there from start to finish, and we feel that skipping the Vatican would be missing an integral part of Rome's character.

By Calli D with 1 comment


Nice post. I read your post. It’s very simple and informatics. Thank you for sharing..............

Rome tours

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Calli and Travis returned from a four month trip through Europe more excited than ever to hit the open road. Who knows where they'll end up next...

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