Saturday, January 15, 2011

Rome: The Vatican 1 of 2

St. Peter's Basilica Dome, The Vatican

The word Rome brings images of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel, Roman Coliseum, the Forum, and of course, the Trivi Fountain of Roman Holiday and Three Coins in a Fountain fame. And we were fortunate enough to see them all.
Long lines started early to visit the Vatican complex.

The tour began at the museum entrance.
Musei Vaticani (Vatican Museums)

What is the smallest country in the world? If you said Liechtenstein, you were close. Liechtenstein, established in 1719, was the smallest country (61.7 square miles) until the Vatican was recognized as a country in 1929 (all of 0.17 miles).

Model of the 0.17 miles in the museum. One third of the Vatican is covered with gardens.

Strolling through the museum and hallway entrance to the Sistine Chapel.
Ornate mosaics on the ceiling.  

Goddess Diana of Ephesus. The multi-breasted statute displayed the capability to nourish all creatures and provide for them.

Gallery of Tapestries
Gallery of Maps

After the museum, there was a short wait to get into the Sistine Chapel. After posing for our picture, we walked around St. Peter's Square and the grounds.

St. Peter's Square is not really a "square". It is elliptical in shape.

I borrowed this picture from a professional to demonstrate the oval shape. My camera doesn't do panorama. St. Peter's Square can hold 100,000 people. It is where the people wait for the announcement of a new Pope.

St. Peter's Dome can be seen from almost all locations as well as from the city of Rome.
Part of living quarters to the left. The Vatican has 900 citizens. The exterior is in the process of being cleaned. This photo illustrates the contrast.

Set up for a ceremony later in the day. Note the statues. Looking down on visitors from above the buildings and colonnade are140 statues of saints, martyrs and popes.

"The Facade" is the large structure (larger than a football field) that can be seen in the center of the panaramic view of St. Peter's Square. On the upper left can be seen what is called the Italian clock since it shows Rome time. On the far right is the Oltramontano clock that shows European mean time. The two clocks were added 1786-1790.

In front of the Facade are two statues. On the left pictured is St. Peter. On the right not seen is St. Paul.
The inscription if one had a good magnifying glass reads "Paul V Borghese, Roman, Pontiff, in the year 1612, the seventh of his pontificate, [erected] in honour of the Prince of Apostles".

Note the center balcony under the arch on the roof. It is from that balcony, called the Loggia of the Blessings, the new pope is announced with "Habemus Papum" (We have a Pope!") who gives the Urbi et Orbi (to the city and to the world) blessing. The relief under the balcony, by Buonvicino, represents Christ giving the keys to St. Peter.

There are 13 statutes atop the Facade.One would immediately think that it would be Jesus and the 12 Apostles. However, Judas was left out and St. John the Baptist substituted.
Shown: Center, Christ the Redeemer. Left working outward: St. John the Baptist, St. James the Elder, and St. Thomas. Right working outward: St. Andrew, St. John the Evangilist, and St. James the Younger.

The Obelisk
The focal point of the square is the Egyptian obelisk The obelisk from Egypt (1835 BC), was brought to Rome in 37 A.D. by Caligula.

 The obelisk once adorned the middle of Nero’s circus -- the presumed site of St. Peter’s crucifixion. Thus, it is thought that the obelisk became the witness of martyrdom of St. Peter and other Christians. Sixtus V had Fontana move it to its current position in 1586.

Residential palace in background.

Guarding residences and other sensitive areas are the Swiss guards. They have been protecting the Pope, and defending the Vatican since 1506. The Vatican has 100 Swiss guards. 

Swiss guards at the Vatican must be Catholic, single males with Swiss citizenship who have completed basic training with the Swiss military and can obtain certificates of good conduct. New recruits must have a professional diploma or high school degree and must be between 19 and 30 years of age and at least 5'8"

Sistine Chapel time. Visitors go in as groups and are allotted specific times to view each section. Good crowd control. Sorry, no pictures are allowed to be taken in the Sistine Chapel as flash cameras are said to damage the frescos. The rule is strictly enforced. The Chapel was AWESOME.


  1. Isn't Rome lovely?? I lived in Italy for two and a half years and every time I went down to Rome there was always something new and amazing! to see. My first marathon I ran was in Rome and what a beautiful 26.2 miles it was!

  2. @hiatus to Run. I envy you. Two and a half years in Italy and frequent trips to Rome. There is so much to see and do. Christine is still wishing we had taken the time to see the Spanish Steps and study the Forum, but we could not do so with our time limitations.