St. Peter's Basilica has the largest dome in the world (second is St. Paul's in London, third is the US Capitol building) and it is so impressive. Our first view was at night and it was lit up and was visible from a great distance. We returned the next morning to visit the Vatican Museum that houses so many indescribable treasures that have been collected by the Popes for centuries. It contains not only works of art but archaeological treasures as well. Unfortunately, our schedule did not allow us to saunter through these wonderful rooms in a leisurely way. I hope, one day, to remedy that and spend some time poking around this impressive collection.
Once we left the museum, we entered, the Sistine Chapel. This small little chapel with its famous ceiling moved me in a way that I was totally unprepared for. As I gazed at Michelangelo's ceiling, I suddenly realized that I was standing in the place where the Pope's kneel to pray, alone, immediately after their election. The historical significance brought tears to my eyes. Despite being surrounded by tourists, that moment was very spiritual for me. Whatever ones religious beliefs this is a place built to honor God, by true believers and it is a masterpiece that defies description.
Next stop, St. Peter's Basilica. The central door dates back to 1455 with depictions of St. Peter and St. Paul. I had to stop and take in the vastness of the basilica and noticed that most people paused for a moment. I immediately spotted Michelangelo's Pieta on the right side which is now shielded by thick glass after being damaged by a tourist a view years ago. This is the only piece ever signed by the artist and it can be seen on Mary's belt. Though we have all seen duplicates and pictures of this piece, there is nothing like seeing the original work of art. The basilica is full of entombed popes and saints including John XXIII, the benevolent and much beloved Pope of my childhood. The more recent Popes, have been entombed beneath the Basilica with the first head of the Roman Catholic Church, Saint Peter.
As you leave the Vatican you pass the Swiss Guard (the Pope's personal detail) and enter St. Peter's Square that is familiar to all of us. But like the Pieta, there is nothing like seeing it in person. High above the balustrade and columns are sculptures of 140 saints. The square is impressive in size and it was just swarming with tourists during our visit. It was not hard to envision the crowds during a papal election.
I do recommend a visit if you are in Rome but try to get your tickets prior to your arrival as the lines are very long. Or opt for a tour, they get right in and there is no waiting. If you arrive in Rome without a ticket, speak with your hotel concierge and they will make arrangements for you.
Until next time, safe travels!
|Central door into St. Peter's|
|Depiction of Christ and St. Peter|
|The Swiss Guard|
|A few of the 140 statues of Saints.|