The Vatican is an independent landlocked city state surrounded by Rome and as such is the smallest independent country in the world. It became independent of Italy and is a distinct territory under the Pope who is the Bishop of Rome and head of the Catholic Church. The Vatican is the most important holy city for the Catholics, an important archaeological site of the Roman era and a major cultural centre. Understandably it is an UNESCO World Heritage site.
Vatican city contains religious and cultural sites such as St Peter’s Basilica, The Sistine Chapel and The Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world’s most famous paintings and sculptures. Vatican city is enclosed by its walls.
When we visited The Vatican , our guide had emphasised to us that it is very important to stay together in a group and ensure not to lose track of the group. It was extremely crowded and once you lose track of your guide, finding one’s way back is next to impossible. After this warning, he handed us over to the local guide; a lady who was carrying a long pole with a coloured flag. She also emphasised the need to stay together and not get distracted. The coloured flag is held high by the guide so that the group members can see her and follow her even in a crowd. I had not seen this system elsewhere, but of late, I find this being followed at many places.
With the fear of God, we all diligently followed the guide as she weaved in and out through the crowd. We first visited St. Peter’s Basilica.
St Peter’s Basilica :
One of the largest churches in the world, it is located at St Peter’s Square and can accommodate 20,000 people. Constructed between 1506 and 1626, it is the most outstanding example of Renaissance architecture. St Peter, one of the 12 disciples of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome was buried just below the main altar where the Basilica stands today and hence the name.
One of the most impressive parts of the Basilica is The Dome. The Dome dominates the Vatican skyline and has been the inspiration for the domes at The Capitol in Washington and St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Michaelangelo started the design of this dome.
Most of the important speeches of the Pope are delivered at St Peter’s Square.
Some pictures :
St Peter’s Square
St Peter’s Basilica
The detailed architecture on the exterior of the basilica with St Peter’s statue in front
The impressive dome from outside……note the windows
The beautiful insides of the dome
The main entrance
The main altar at St Peter’s Basilica
St Peter’s tomb with a beautiful fresco in the background
The Holy Door
A huge decorated door which opens only during the “Holy Years” as per the instructions of the Pope is seen here. The belief is that if one crosses the door, one is cleared of his sins.
The Holy Door
One of the most celebrated works of Michaelangelo is ‘Pieta’ which depicts Christ after crucifixion on Mother Mary’s lap. This statue can be seen next to the entrance of the Basilica.
Michaeangelo’s Pieta (Pity in English)
Bronze statue of St Peter is another important aspect of the Basilica. To be noted is the toes that have worn out due to pilgrims touching the toes and kissing the feet
Bronze statue of St Peter
Mummy of Pope John xxiii can be seen preserved here.
Mummy of Pope John XXIII
St Peter’s Basilica is the resting ground of several Popes and their graves can be seen in the underground level. These are artificial caves decorated with elaborate designs, frescos and paintings.
Besides this, the Basilica is a storehouse of art in the form of frescos and paintings and decorated ceilings. Some pictures..
The last supper ….a celebrated fresco and the decorated ceiling
The Swiss Guards :
Another peculiarity seen here is the presence of Swiss guards who wear very colourful dresses and are armed with traditional and modern weapons. They are responsible for the safety of the Vatican Palace and Pope.
Swiss guard at the Vatican Palace
The Vatican Museums :
The Vatican museums are public museums in Vatican city with enormous collections of art work and sculptures from the Roman era and Renaissance period collected by the Popes. Apart from the art work displayed, some of the extraordinarily artistic rooms of the Vatican palace also form part of these museums.
At the entrance to the Vatican museums ( note the guides with their coloured flags)
Inside the museum
There are several smaller museums inside the main museum complex dedicated to various eras, popes, faiths etc. Some of these are: Sistine chapel, Christian Museum, Jewish Lapidarium, Egyptian museum, Collection of Contemporary Art etc.
A model of Vatican city in the Museum
Works of art form part of the beautiful ceilings of the corridors ,or ,are frescos displayed on the walls of the museum or ceiling. There are small display monitors in the museum where pictures of these great art works are saved. The guide explains the pictures and frescoes from these display monitors.
Guide explaining the frescos from the monitor
Some pictures from the museums:
Large tapestry on either sides of the corridors at the museum
Tapestry on the walls of the museum
Beautifully decorated arch
The beautiful ceiling of the Museum
Resurrection of Christ, one of the most important frescoes
The Sistine chapel is a chapel and the official residence of the Pope. It is also part of the Vatican museum complex . It is famous for the Michaelangelo frescoes that decorate the interior particularly the ceiling . The ceiling has intricate frescoes about which the guide explained to us on the monitor. “The Creation of Adam ” is one of his renowned works which adorn the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
The ceiling of Sistine chapel painted by Michaelangelo portraying the creation of Adam
“Creation Of Adam “by Michaelangelo
Another of Michaelagelo’s famous work, “The Last Judgement “can be seen behind the altar at Sistine Chapel
“The Last Judgement” by Michaelangelo
Guide explaining ‘The Last Judgement” on the monitor
Another important painting is “The Handing over Of The Keys” by Pietro Perugino
“Handing over the keys of heaven to St Peter” by Pietro Perugino
The sculpture of Artemis the Goddess of Fertility is another attractive statue here.
After an exhaustive session on history ,art and architecture by the guide, she let us off to the gardens of the St Peter’s Basilica where we had some time to ourselves to walk around and explore.
Most of us were pretty tired mentally and physically and chose to rest under the shade of the trees there. Soon our guide arrived and escorted us back to our hotel ending our visit to Rome. We would head for Pisa the next day.
A small note to my valued readers…
I am taking a two week vacation and hence my next episode will be uploaded after I am back. It will start with Pisa and its leaning tower!
Till I get back to you all, do continue your support in the form of your valuable comments and feedback. I value each one of them .
See you all after a short break…..