17 October 2010

Italy Trip, Vatican Tour

Here is a not so brief post about our guided tour of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.

Vatican City covers a territory of 0.44 square kilometres, that is 44 hectares (roughly 100 acres). It is partly surrounded by walls and stretches into St Peter’s Square. The population of Vatican City is about 800 people, of whom over 450 have Vatican citizenship, while the rest have permission to reside there, either temporarily or permanently, without the benefit of citizenship.

This is part of the wall outside the Vatican:

One of the first things we saw was this 1st century Roman bronze Pigna ("pinecone") which gives the name Cortile della Pigna to the highest terrace; it was originally an ancient fountain.

Next we went through several of the Vatican museums with amazing paintings and sculptures. I must confess to taking terrible pictures inside and also not remembering which museums we went through.  There was just so much to see. And everything was so overwhelming!  I do however remember the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s ceiling. 

It's about 40 meters (131 feet) long by 13 meters (43 feet) wide and well over 5,000 square feet of frescoes. It took him a bit over four years, from July of 1508 to October of 1512 to complete. This is a sign outside of the Sistine Chapel depicting the whole ceiling.

The ceiling in the Sistine Chapel was truly amazing, breathtaking, any adjective you can think of.  Most of the paintings looked three dimensional and I must say I thought that they were till I checked with our guide! Here are some pics ( not mine, but the results of a google search ) if you want to check them out!

Then it was over to St Peter’s Basilica. 

Again, I was overwhelmed just to be there, so didn’t get too many pics, but here are a few.

This is the Holy Door or 'Porta Sancta' which is only open during a Holy Year (Jubilee), which occur every 25 years (the last one in 2000).  On the first day of a holy year, the Pope strikes the brick wall with a silver hammer and opens it to the pilgrims.


The Pietà (1499) is a masterpiece of Renaissance sculpture by the renowned artist Michelangelo, housed in St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.This famous work of art depicts the body of Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after the Crucifixion.  Michelangelo's interpretation of the Pietà is unique to the precedents. It is an important work as it balances the Renaissance ideals of classical beauty with naturalism. The statue is one of the most highly finished works by Michelangelo.  Again, just boggles the mind to actually see these things in person!

Here lies the body of Pope Bl. John XXIII, who died in 1963 and was beatified on September 3, 2000 by Pope John Paul II. His body has remained incorrupt, as you can see. The tomb of John XXIII was opened for the recognition of his mortal remains which were transferred from the Vatican crypt (located under the basilica) into the basilica in 2001.

When we left the Basilica, we saw these gentlemen.

The Swiss Guards are a small force responsible for the security of the Vatican city with various task including guarding the entrances to the Vatican as well as ensuring the personal safety of the Pope. Today being a Swiss guard at the Vatican city is largely a ceremonial role. However the history of the Swiss guards corps is a long one involving many real military campaigns.

Next we have the view of St. Peter’s Square, from the Basilica:

The Obelisk from Egypt was brought to Rome by Emperor Caligula in 37 AD. It was moved in 1586 to the center of St. Peter's Square.  It is also a sun dial, its shadows mark noon over the signs of the zodiac in the white marble disks in the paving of the square. The obelisk rests upon four couchant lions, each with two bodies whose tails intertwine.

Finally we ended up in the official Vatican gift shop where I purchased a peace medallion for me, a couple of medals (all of which were blessed by the Pope), and the obligatory book!

And that was our tour of the Vatican and St. Peter’s Cathedral.


lexa said...


LR from the museum in town went there as part of a cruise earlier this year, I think it was. She's got a picture of that Pope - he's encased in wax or something, isn't he? She's on my FB, but I'm too lazy right now to look it up.

Marti said...

Truly awesome. I hope I get to go there (Italy) someday.

Landerson said...

Simply amazing! Would love to see more pics from Italy!!!


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