The next morning was Vatican Extravaganza day. We scheduled a tour with Rome Walks (we do not recommend this tour). We were set to start at 9:45. The Pope was in St. Peter's Square that day, so we went over and watched him for a while. He drove around the front of the square (nearest to the entrance of St. Peter's). He then went to the "stage" in front of the church. Priests speaking different languages (Spanish, Italian, English) read from the Gospels and then Pope Benedict gave a homily. Unfortunately, not speaking Italian we couldn't understand what he said. It was really neat to see the Pope.
Amy and Pam in St. Peter's Square
We then met with our tour guide and headed to the Vatican Museum. After waiting in line for about 45 minutes we made it to the front. The Vatican has an impressive collection of statues, paintings, frescoes, tapestries, basically any type of art, they have it. Some of the more impressive pieces of art at the Vatican are the Apollo Belvedere which is of the god Apollo. It was considered the most perfect work of art in the world. Another, Lacocoon found in the long forgotten Emperor Nero's house. The statue is of Laocoon a high priest of Troy warning his fellow Trojans to beware of greeks bearing gifts. The Trojans did not believe Laocoon and the statue depicts his death. The gods wanted the Greeks to win, so they sent huge snakes to kill Laocoon and his sons so their message could not be heard.
We then walked and walked and walked! The Vatican museum is vast. Our tour guide had lots of information to share. We finanally made it almost to the Sistine Chapel. First, we went through the Raphael Rooms. Raphael painted the papal apartments of Pope Julius II. Included is the School of Athens. A beautiful and famous painting depicting both Rafael and Michaelangelo.
School of Athens
After the Rafael rooms, we were finally ready for the Sistine Chapel. First, we had to get a snack. We were starving! The Vatican has a little snack shop so we stopped in super quick and got a sandwhich and drinks. After eating them quickley, we were back on track. The Sistine Chapel is a wonder to behold. You first walk in it's overwhelming. It's long and tall. The chapel was made to the specifications listed in the Bible for the Temple of Solomen. Michalangelo spent four years painting the ceiling. He painted it in sections standing 70 ft above the floor. He painted the entire ceiling by himself. There is no photography allowed in the chapel so no pictures of that. There are nine main scenes to the ceiling: Drunkeness of Noah, The Flood, Sacrifice of Noah, Temptation and Expulsion, Creation of Eve, Creation of Adam, Separation of Land from Water, Creationof Sun Moon and Planets, Separation of Light from Darkness. The first half of the ceiling took him 3 years the last took him only 1 year. The last half is the most famous. He made the figures bigger and more detailed. The first half the figures are smaller with lots of details, but harder to see from the floor. Perhaps the funniest part of the ceiling is in the Creation of Sun Moon and Planets because Michaelango depicts God mooning everyone looking up! Look the image up on the internet, it's amusing. Also in the Chapel is the Last Judgement also painted by Michaelangeo. It takes up an entire wall by the altar. It's pretty cool being in the chapel knowing that is where the new pope is chosen. Pretty cool.
Doors and Stairs leading up to the Chapel
After the Chapel it was on to St. Peter's. This St. Peter's is actually the 2nd. The first was knocked down in 1500 to build a bigger better one. The church is the largest in the world. The window at the far end is two football fields away. The church covers 6 acres. Basically, it's huge. In the center under the dome is a large canopy crafted by Bernini. Behind that is the altar with an equally impressive sculpture by Bernini designed to look as though it's inside the first. Under the dome and the canopy are 99 oil lamps that are always lit. There are stair leading down and that is where it was believed St. Peter's rested. It was discovered later that it is actually not quite there, but close. It was officially announced that they are indeed St. peter's bones when dating was done and it was determined the bones were of a man from the 1st century. Graffiti in the tomb stated that these were the bones of Peter.
Altar of St. Peter's
Also in St. Peter's are relics of St. Peter's Cross, Jesus' Cross, The Spear of the Soldier that pierced the side of Jesus, and the Cloth with which Veronica wiped the face of Jesus. We could have spent hours in the church and not see everything.
We then saw the Pieta, one of Michaelangelo's most beautiful sculptures. It was attacked by a mad man with a hammer and is now behind bullet proof glass. We saw the Holy Door which is opened on Christmas Day by the Pope only in Holy Years. The next one will be in 2025. The picture below is from the outside of the church (of the Holy Door).
Pieta and Holy Door
We had planned to climb the dome of the church, but we were pretty tired by this time. We had been at the Vatican from 9:45 to about 5pm at this point. No breaks and no lunch! It was intense! So we didn't climb the dome, instead we went into the grotto or the "crypt" where the popes are buried. We saw the tomb of Pope John Paul II. There were lots of people there morning him. One lady was bauling. It was very moving. No photos were allowed.
We were ready at this point to leave the Vatican. We filled up our water bottles and headed back to the subway. after 7 hours of walking around the Vatican, we were ready for a nap! We got up a few hours later and headed to a delicious dinner just a street away from the hotel. We had delicious appetizers of caprese salad (tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil) and proccuito (not spelled right) and cantalope. J ate a calzone filled with egg, cheese, and ham. Pam and I shared a marinara pizza (no cheese) and we enjoyed some delicious red wine. For dessert, Pam got Tirimisu, J got a chocolate cake and the waiter brought me a yummy dessert ( I asked him to surprise me). It was awesome!! Still tired, we headed back to bed anticipating the Colloseum and Roman Forum tours!
The three of us in the courtyard of the Vatican Museum with St. Peter's Dome in the background & the dome of St. Peter's
Dinner at the pizzeria