Early in on the morning on our final day in Rome we took a taxi to the Vatican, we rounded a corner, and suddenly there was St. Peter's square, empty and basking in the early morning sun. Incredible!
We hurried around the corner to line up for the "Vatican Museum". We got in line about an hour before the doors opened to ensure that we'd get in and see it early, and good thing we did because apparently the line can stretch for hours.
The Vatican Museum is more than a museum. It's actually the old Papal Palaces that happen to be filled with amazing walls, ceilings, and art. The end of the Vatican Museum is the climax, the Sistine Chapel.
A lot of people go into the Vatican Museum and just run right to the Sistine Chapel. But because we are a family of history buffs and art lovers we spent about 2.5 hours in the museum before entering the Sistine Chapel.
First we saw the Egyptian mummies and then old Greek and Roman statutes.
I particularly enjoyed these two ancient statues, both of which were huge inspirations for Michelangelo.
This is Laocoön and His Sons. This B.C. statue was unearthed in 1506 and Michelangelo emulated the movement of this statue in his later work.
This is the Belvedero Torso. Michelangelo used to say he was "a student of the torso." Do you recognize the Torso's abs? They were the inspiration for Jesus's abs in The Last Judgment (which is in the Sistine Chapel).
Isn't it so cool to learn how cultures build on each other?! Sorry, I just drink that kind of stuff up!
Note: If you visit the Vatican Museum please please please don't just skip to the Sistine Chapel. You'll miss so much! See the rest of it for me, ok? Likewise if you ever go to the Louvre in Paris, don't just see the Mona Lisa. You'll miss the greatest collection of art you'll ever see in your life. OK, I'm off my soapbox.
Then we headed down several amazing hallways with all kinds of beautiful ceilings and walls.
Look at this ceiling. It looks like it's carved, but really it's a painted optical illusion. Trippy!
Next were the Raphael rooms. I just loved seeing so many Raphaels in one place!
School of Athens has long been one of my favorite works of art.
See that man in front in purple? That's Michelangelo. Raphael apparently painted him into this piece as a final touch after he caught a glimpse of Michelangelo's amazing unfinished Sistine Chapel.
Finally it was time for the Sistine Chapel, which we got via the much neglected modern religious art area.
We entered the dark, crowded Sistine Chapel and .... WOW! There was the Last Judgment and the iconic Sistine Chapel Ceiling. I couldn't believe I was actually seeing it!
Yes, I took a covert picture even though it's not allowed. Don't tell Vatican security on me, mmmkay?
Fun fact about the Sistine Chapel ceiling. Michelangelo painted the panels of Noah and family first. Then he came down off his ladder and realized they were too small and too undramatic. Ooops! So he went back up and painted the rest of the iconic scenes (like Adam and God) with much larger figures and much more action. You can really see the difference when you see the ceiling in person.
After we spent our time in the Sistine Chapel we took the secret tour group exit door that takes you straight to St. Peter's Basilica. Perfect! Thanks for the tip, Rick Steves!
We made it past the not-so-friendly or helpful Vatican guards (by the way, what is up with that?) who were arbitrarily enforcing dress code (seriously, it was oh-so-arbitrary, but I was glad I wore my modest dress), and into St. Peter's Basilica to walk around.
The first thing we saw was the Pieta. Absolutely amazing! The sheer emotion in it just took my breath away.
Sorry for the crap picture. A better one is here if you want a better look.
We also saw the dead Pope body. That was crazy and a bit creepy. I didn't take a picture for obvious reasons.
The sheer size and grandness of St. Peter's Basilica puts every other church to shame. Seriously. Oh and did I mention it has tons more amazing art?
Family photo by the confessional!
We're random, I know.
Then my Dad, the Mr. and I decided to go up into the Dome. And my Mom went to the crypts.
Walked up the hundreds of steps to get to the top of the Dome. It has much bigger hallways and stairwells than the Duomo in Florence.
Part way through you can stop and look down into the Church, which is cool.
Finally we got to the top to see the spectacular view from above!
St. Peter's Square
Vatican grounds and Vatican Radio Station
On top of the Vatican
The Pantheon in the distance
St. Peter's square with Rome in the distance
Back toward the Vatican Museum
We walked back to the mid-point, where you can buy ice cream and espresso for a good price!
The Vatican was just an incredible site to see. Besides the fantastic art, this small plot of land contains an indescribable amount of history.
It's crazy to think that the apostle Peter, who walked with Jesus, was killed and buried on the very spot where St. Peter's Basilica is built.
In the Gospel of Matthew Jesus tells Peter, "you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church," (Matthew 16:18). This quite literally happened. The Church was literally built on
Peter. To see scripture come to life like that is really freakin' cool.
Even though I'm no longer a Catholic, I can definitely appreciate the Catholic Church as the foundation of my faith and really the foundation of all Christian faith.
Next up? Tuscany!
Just joining the Europe recaps? See them all here.
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