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The Vatican

One of the things I was looking forward to was the visit to the Vatican. No, I’m not a very religious person but who has not heard about the Sistine Chapel, St Peter’s Church and the Pope. The Catholic Church is the whole reason for the existence of Vatican City whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome.As the smallest independent state in the world, it’s easy to pretend that a visit to Vatican City during your stay in Rome doesn’t involve leaving the country of Italy.

St. Peter’s Square

We got up early to get to the museum on a guided tour.The line outside the Vatican Museum was already starting to grow. The museum entrance is located on the right side of St. Peter’s. We had to go through security checks just like TSA in airports before entering for our 3-hour tour. Before I forget, remember that there is a dress code when going inside- no shorts or sleeveless tops allowed.

For me the highlight of the entire tour was the Sistine Chapel. It’s testament to man’s highest artistic endeavor and simply breathtaking. There are many works of arts on the walls and every ceiling of the museum but Michelangelo’s works beats them all. When we got in, I was surprised that it was really small and crowded.

Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement

Photography and talking are not allowed inside the chapel. The guards will approach you when they found someone taking pictures or filming. Ask Roel about this. Hahaha! And since I’m a bit of a stubborn, I stole a quick couple of shots. You just have to be creative on how to shoot it. But even if there were a few distractions, it is still safe to say that the Sistine Chapel was divine. You have to see it to experience it.

According to Wikipedia, the ceiling is made up of many small frescos that show stories from the bible and was made around 1512. The Last Judgment on the wall is impressive and Michelangelo worked on this piece between 1508 and 1512.

By this point we were a bit exhausted as we had seen treasures like nowhere else. But we were not done with the tour yet. The last building we were going to visit was the St. Peters Basilica, the world’s biggest church. The church was built on the site of St. Peter’s tomb.

One of the unique pieces you will find here is The Pieta, the famous marble statue by Michelangelo. I had a hard time taking photos on the statue due to the crowds and the fact that it is kept behind a glass wall.

Michelangelo’s Pieta

It was a bit difficult to keep up with our tour guide and as my eyes constantly glided towards the huge dome (also by Michelangelo) and the rays of light that came in through the windows created an almost blissful effect on me. It is hard to really understand the size of the dome until you see the people that are walking around up there.

After the tour, we decided to go up and see the Dome. The elevator brings you to the bottom of the dome, from where a small long and mostly spiraling staircase brings you to the top. The steps get quite claustrophobic as the climb is one way only and the walls tend to lean inwards getting quite close to your head as you make your way along. From there you have a magnificent view of Rome and St. Peter’s Square in particular, which is called the key hole square.

The claustrophobic stairs going to the dome

 

Keyhole view of Vatican

 

In the Vatican you’re a bound to notice the Swiss guards. These are the protectors of the Vatican and the Pope. Today there are certain criteria that need to be fulfilled in order to join this force like:  you have to be Swiss, Catholic (of course), have attended military school in Switzerland, at least 5’8 tall, single, etc. I find it amusing that someone volunteers to join a force where you have to dress up like a clown. No offense meant, but I can’t help think that their colorful outfits must make it difficult to get respect from visitors. We saw quite a number of people posing with the guards and some of them didn’t look that pleased with being a side show for tourists.

The Swiss Guard

 

The Vatican at night

 

Unfortunately,the Pope was in Germany during  this trip but visiting the Vatican is still a remarkable experience. This is one place Catholic people can only dream of seeing and I felt proud and lucky. It’s an experience which is truly awe inspiring.

 

 

 

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