July 29, Rome and Vatican City
Today we will visit Vatican City, the smallest country in the world, 110 acres, and ruled by the Bishop of Rome - The Pope. Vatican City is the location of St Peters Square, St Peters Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican gardens. We walked into St Peters Square, which is actually elliptical, located in front of St Peters Basilica. There is a 4400 year old Egyptian solid granite obelisk that was brought to Rome by Emperor Caligula in 37 AD marking the centre. On both sides are the Tuscan colonnades, four columns deep, 284 columns in all, and topped with 140 saints. The colonnades are said to be the arms of Mother Church reaching out to embrace her followers. The square is designed like a saucer, higher around the edges so people on the periphery can have a view over crowds. We next entered St Peters Basilica which is where St Peter is buried. St Peter was one of the Twelve Apostles and the first Pope. The entire interior of St Peter's is lavishly decorated with marble, gold, reliefs, architectural sculpture and paintings. It really is quite an amazing sight. Pictures just won't be able to show the scale and detail. The church is huge, it covers 6 acres. It can hold 60,000 standing worshippers. The main alter is directly beneath the 430 foot dome and covered with a 7 story bronze canopy. St. Peters tomb is located here below the marble floor. There is so much history and so much to see but we had to make our way over to the Sistine Chapel before they closed. The Sistine Chapel is the personal chapel of the Pope and is where new Popes are elected. To get to the chapel we walked through the Vatican Museum. There are all kinds of artifacts going back a few thousand years. We saw lots of sculptures, the Hall of Animals, Hall of Maps, huge tapestries (kind of like woven carpets) and ancient Egyptian artifacts. There are many frescos painted on the walls and ceilings and some fancy details on the marble floors as well. We finally made it into the Sistine Chapel to see the famous works of Michelangelo. In 1508 the Pope asked Michelangelo to paint the ceiling but he was a sculptor not a painter so he declined but was eventually persuaded to take on the project. There is so much detail and so many Bible stories told within the paintings it is hard to describe. In the centre of the ceiling is the famous scene of God reaching out to touch the hand of Adam. There are panels of the 9 scenes of Genesis on the ceiling - God created the heaven and Earth, God created the sun, God created Earth and sea, God created man, God created woman, the garden of Eden, a world filled with sinners, the Great flood and Noah's Ark, and finally Noah and his sons. The ceiling is 5900 sq feet of frescoes. Behind the altar is Michelangelo's The Last Judgement, another whole story where the dead are being judged. I really wish I had my good camera for these pictures. Bells rang indicating the chapel was closing. Unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to completely take in all the details of the paintings in the chapel as we were ushered out. We picked up a pizza for a late lunch and had a rest. Later, we found a place for supper where we each ordered some spaghetti with different sauces. It was really good. After supper, we made our way to Piazza Navona, another square with a Basilica, an obelisk, some fountains, many cafe's and tourists. Here we got some tiramisu for desert. We walked over to the river again to take night photos of St Peters Basilica and the bridges over the river. On the way back we stopped to pick up some items for breakfast and we only had 21 Euro cents remaining. We are leaving for home early in the morning. We are looking forward to getting home but it will be very sad emotionally not having Riley to meet us.