Vatican City (Day Two)
Vatican City Travel Blog› entry 2 of 2 › view all entries
August 7th, 2009 – by: tedi31
After a â€śvery basicâ€ť complementary breakfast composed of a small selection of cereals, dry biscuits, and orange juice at the Hotel King; Isabel, Samantha, Arthur, David, and I ventured out to the nearest subway station (Barberini) and took the first steps toward the initial leg of our walking tour--Vatican City.
As the group descended into Barberini Station, I took a look at the city map of Rome located by the ticket machines in order to orient myself as to the station we were to get off on (Ottaviano Station). I noticed that the blue and red lines (which represented the only two routes currently in use by the citizens of Rome) only covered a fraction of the city. Later on, I was told of the difficulty in laying out new stations for potential train lines due to the number of ruins buried all over Rome.
After the group purchased single-entry tickets to Ottaviano Station, we took what seemed to be the single longest escalator I have ever been on my entire life! It seemed to go on forever and it made me appreciate what the engineers and diggers had to go through to make this modernization possible.
Overview of Vatican City
What more can be said before entering the smallest country in the world? Vatican City has the lowest birthrate; smallest population (less than 950 people); lowest crime rate; its own private guard (Pontifical Swiss Guard); language (Latin), currency, passports, and in some cases even dual citizenship.
We were also informed that although the Vatican was never intended to be open to the public, tourism into the country covers Vatican Cityâ€™s annual operating cost pegged at an estimated 300 million Euro.
Entering Holy Ground
Not far from the entrance of Vatican City was where we met our tour group and our new friends for the next 3 Â˝ hours. After dispensing with introductions and pleasantries, I was surprised that the tour representatives handed the group earpieces and receivers which we were told to use for the duration of the tour.
Tour guiding in the 21st century.
But I digress, this in no way takes anything away from our guide who was quite entertaining and knew his Vatican history like the back of his hand. But what really took the cake was what he used to identify himself to the group once we entered Vatican City--a bottle of water.
Yes, we were like a flock of blind sheep.
A sea of humanity following a bottle of water.
The Vatican Experience
Entering Vatican City was like going through airport security--complete with the baggage x-rays. But from that point on, it was a visual experience. From the Vatican Gardens to the statue of Hercules which was the inspiration for The Thinker sculpture to the red marble papal Jacuzzi made of extinct marble (costing about $95,000 an ounce in the open market today) to the Gallery of Maps that gives the illusion that some of the pieces are protruding to the Papal Apartments and that huge wall-to-wall Polish painting to the Raphael Rooms and how he seems to keep putting himself in his portraits along with his girlfriend and rival Michelangelo (boredom was very much present in those days).
Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina)
Although the group and I only got a short glimpse of the Sistine Chapel (they were hungry and decided to eat at the cafeteria before entering the Chapel. Word of warning! Count your change before leaving the establishment because I was short changed by the cashier and only realized it when we alighted from a cab in Piazza Navona that afternoon. Fifteen Euro is a lot of money but I decided not to feel bad and consider it as my donation to my Church.), I found it to be inspiring (and much smaller than I imagined it to be--it is similar to that feeling one has when he watches sporting events on television and one day finally decides to watch a game liveâ€¦its an adjustment.) and only within its walls do you begin to appreciate what a reluctant Michelangelo put into this particular body of work.
I was even able to sneak in a photo of The Last Judgment. Heck, everyone was taking photographs in there, even if we werenâ€™t supposed to because of an exclusive agreement between the Church and the group, which shouldered the restoration of the Sistine Chapel.
Silence was also supposed to be a premium in the Sistine Chapel (it wasnâ€™t), so our guide told us beforehand a very entertaining version of how the interior of the Chapel. To my understanding, the Sistine Chapel was a progressive body of work by a number of renowned artists of their time including Michelangelo. Among the stories that our guide shared which stood out for me were Michelangeloâ€™s Prophet Jonah, how Michelangelo painted the Sistineâ€™s ceiling, and that the face of Lucifer was one of the Cardinal or Bishop who complained about Michelangeloâ€™s work on The Last Judgment.
In Michelangeloâ€™s interpretation of the Prophet Jonah, Michelangelo had never been to see and had no idea what a whale looked like. He approached a Pope, I believe, and asked something like this, â€śYouâ€™re a well traveled guy. In your travels, have you seen a whale? What does it look like?â€ť The Pope said, â€śIt looks like a really big fish.â€ť And there you have it; to Jonahâ€™s left is a really big fish. While in the painting of the Sistineâ€™s ceiling, Michelangelo had to paint upright for several hours a day for four years. This caused complications to the back of his neck and affect how he read later on in life. In fact, Michelangelo would read documents by lifting them to the heavens. It was just much easier that way. Lastly, in the story of the Cardinal or Bishop who criticized Michelangeloâ€™s work on The Last Judgment.
St. Peterâ€™s Basilica and St. Peterâ€™s Square
As we exited The Sistine Chapel and moved towards St. Peterâ€™s Basilica, our guide directed our attention to The Holy Door which we were told was opened only every 25-years. Then as we pushed forward, the bright light emanating from the scorching hot weather outside greeted us and as our eyes adjustment--St. Peterâ€™s Square came into view.
My first thought was, â€śGee, it looks just like it does in Angels & Demons.
After returning the receiver to our tour guide, we bade him farewell and took advantage of the photo opportunity before entering St. Peterâ€™s Basilica and advancing to the north aisle where Michelangelo's PietĂ rests.
Back in the Philippines, I have seen several versions of the PietĂ , but nothing is as good as the original.
Michelangelo was certainly talented and that is an understatement.
Looking back, one day is simply not enough to take in the rich history of Vatican City. In fact, our tour--though informative--was just too much for a quartet of 11 year-olds to take in. About 2 hours into the tour, they began to tire and with a maze of tapestries, statues, Egyptian artifacts, extinct marble, busts, sculptures, paintings, etc.
They were tired at the end but I would like to believe that they felt that experience was certainly worth the sacrifice.
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