The Vatican

Vatican City Travel Blog

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Entrance to the Vatican museum

So I woke up crazy early in the morning to head over to the Vatican museum.  First of all, the museum has weird hours (they close at like 2), and second of all, the line is always long to get in.  I didn't want to miss the opportunity to see the museum, and if you know me at all, you know I didn't want to wait in line for it too long.  I jumped on the subway and took it to the stop closest to the Vatican museum.  NOTE:  The entrance to the museum is on the OUTSIDE of Vatican City, on the wall on the north side of the country.  (Yes, it is a separate country).  I brought with me pants, because I knew these were needed to get into St.

"Inside" the Vatican Museum
Peter's Basilica.  I got to the end of the line for the Vatican museum, and it wasn't too long, but I am glad I got there when I did - about an hour in advance.  As I looked up and down the line, everyone had pants on.  It wasn't hot yet, but I knew it was going to be...but still everyone had shorts.  There happened to be two groups of Americans in front of me, so I opted to chat with them while we waited.  In one group there were 4 Americans, all my age, so we hit it off immediately.  They had said they wore pants because they weren't sure whether you needed them or not for the Vatican museum.  The other American group, an older couple, said the same thing.  Now, I had my pants in my daypack, but the line behind me was now very long.
St. Peter's Square
  I didn't even know where to change, so I did what any sensible person would do - I changed right there, in the line for the Vatican museum, in broad daylight.  At least the Americans didn't mind.

As the museum opened and the line started moving, the group of Americans my age asked if I wanted to join them on their walk through the museum.  I thought that was a great idea and did just that.  I won't spend too much time talking about my walk through the museum, but there were a ton of artifacts from Roman history, as well as paintings, sculptures, and the architecture of the place alone was amazing.  Also, the final stop in the museum is the Sistine Chapel, with Michelangelo's famous painted ceiling.  Upon entering that room, it was literally packed with people just standing there staring at the ceiling.

St. Peter's Basilica
  There were several "guards" who would monitor the room.  All they did was yell "No photo" and that was it.  My camera must have "accidentally" gone off here, as well as some others in the crowd.

The exit of the museum puts you right into Vatican City, with a great view of the massive collonades.  We immediately got into one of the long lines for St. Peter's Basilica.  This first line is a security check, all your belongings go through an x-ray machine like in the airport.  After you clear that line, you get into another line.  This line is a pants check, they check your dress code and make sure that it meets the requirements.  If not, they throw you out on the street.  (Actually, I have no idea what they do if you are not dressed appropriately).

This is the bronze altar inside St. Peter's Basilica
  Finally, you get into the line that actually take you into the basilica.  It looks huge from a distance (and all over Rome, for that matter), but once you get up close, you realize just how huge St. Peter's is.  The rumor is that the church is built right on top of the place where St. Peter was buried some 2000 years ago, after he was crucified.

Entering one of the large doors that even someone 10 stories tall could enter, we were all in awe of the size of the basilica.  Immediately to the right we saw Michelangelo's Pieta.  I'll talk more about that in a second.  We could hear a loud American voice shouting something about a tour, so we checked that out.

La Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica
  It turns out some guy was giving free tours of the basilica, and we're not stupid - free is good.  We joined the tour and he took us around, teaching us about the various points of interest.  I don't remember too many of them now, but here are the ones I do remember:

The altar in St. Peter's is made of bronze, just the way the requestor wanted it to be.  The designer at the time, however, was unable to find enough bronze in all of Rome to make it.  So, the requestor (a french cardinal) told the designer to use the bronze in the Pantheon.  So, the designer went and drilled numerous holes in the Pantheon, taking out the bronze he needed to finish his work.  See my picture of the Pantheon in my Rome blog, or check it out in person!

We also learned the story of the Pieta.

From St. Peter's Basilica
  Created by Michelangelo before he was famous, Michelangelo never put his name on his works.  No matter what the work is, you can't find his name anywhere.  There is an exception, of course.  Shortly after Michelangelo made it, another sculptor of the time began to claim that the Pieta was his work, and now the work of Michelangelo.  This was of course quickly disproven, but Michelangelo got fed up with it.  He snuck into St. Peter's late one night, and carved this across the sash running across Mary's breast:  MICHAELA[N]GELUS BONAROTUS FLORENTIN[US] FACIEBA[T] (Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made it).  There is one more important piece of information about the Pieta.  It turns out that, in 1972, a crazed geologist entered St.
John Paul II's resting place
Peter's and attacked the Pieta with a hammer, yelling, "I am Jesus Christ".  In the confusion, people picked up pieces of the Pieta and left the basilica with them.  In the coming weeks, the powers that be would send out a worldwide request for the return of the missing pieces, mentioning that no one would suffer any penalty if the pieces were returned.  Sure enough, every single piece was returned and the sculpture was carefully restored.  It sits today behind thick bullet-proof glass.

After the tour, we got in line to go to the top of the dome.  It cost some 6 euro to do so, but wow was it worth it.  There are some 530 stairs to the top, but the view of all of Rome was even more breathtaking than the stairs.  There can be no building in all of Rome that stands taller than the dome I was looking out from.

St. Peter's Square
  This allowed for the amazing view before me.  The cool air felt great; I felt like I was on top of the world.  It was the most rewarding feeling.

We walked around the basilica a little more before heading out.  On the way out, we grabbed a photo of the Swiss Guard - the elite soldiers who protect the area and the Pope.  They dress funny, but they can kill you in a heartbeat!  We went down under the basilica and checked out the crypt where many Popes were laid to rest.  This trip was not too long after Pope John Paul II had passed away, so we were able to see his final resting place.

Our next stop was out into St. Peter's square, which I am told will hold 500,000 people.  In the square you can also see the numerous pillars and above those statues of many different saints.  While hard to describe, there are even spots where you can stand and look out at the rows of pillars, creating the illusion that there is only one pillar in a row instead of many!  I guess you'll have to see it for yourself.

After this, we headed out of the Vatican to check out some more things in Rome.

Pearl510 says:
Wow! All this brings back so many memories. I absolutely love this place !
Posted on: Jan 23, 2008
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Entrance to the Vatican museum
Entrance to the Vatican museum
Inside the Vatican Museum
"Inside" the Vatican Museum
St. Peters Square
St. Peter's Square
St. Peters Basilica
St. Peter's Basilica
This is the bronze altar inside St…
This is the bronze altar inside S…
La Pieta in St. Peters Basilica
La Pieta in St. Peter's Basilica
From St. Peters Basilica
From St. Peter's Basilica
John Paul IIs resting place
John Paul II's resting place
St. Peters Square
St. Peter's Square
List of past Popes
List of past Popes
Inside St. Peters Basilica
Inside St. Peter's Basilica
Almost to the top of the dome in S…
Almost to the top of the dome in …
Mosaic up in the dome of St. Peter…
Mosaic up in the dome of St. Pete…
Standing at the precise spot in St…
Standing at the precise spot in S…
Looking out over Rome from the dom…
Looking out over Rome from the do…
Inside the Vatican Museum
Inside the Vatican Museum
Long hallway in the Vatican Museum…
Long hallway in the Vatican Museu…
Vatican Museum
Vatican Museum
Inside St. Peters Basilica
Inside St. Peter's Basilica
Looking up at the dome in St. Pete…
Looking up at the dome in St. Pet…
They call this the door of death i…
They call this the door of death …
The Swiss Guard
The Swiss Guard
Vatican City
photo by: EmyG