Vatican City is a Holy place for most Christians and is one of the must see places if you are in Rome. We were in Vatican City twice during our trip.
St Peter’s Square
I am sure all of you know Vatican City is a tiny country in itself. It is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy. It has an area of approximately 44 hectares (110 acres), and a population of just over 800. This makes Vatican City the smallest independent state in the world by both area and population.
The city is ruled by the bishop of Rome, the Pope, who is the head of state and head of government of this city. As an independent state, the Vatican has its own postal service, currency, newspaper, radio station and army. The flamboyantly dressed Swiss Guards were founded in 1506 by Julius II to defend the Papal States against invading armies and are responsible for the pope’s personal security even today.
The place has really impressive architecture and I can’t believe how well built and maintained the tiny country is. Large vaulted ceilings and tall building, statues of saints in every direction.
On the square lies the amazing structure of 100+ columns on both sides. While walking past the columns that surrounded the square we could see an Egyptian obelisk in the centre, with two fountains on the sides all looking at the magnificent Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The obelisk is about 25m high. It is also a sun dial and its shadows mark noon over the signs of the zodiac in the white marble disks in the paving of the square.
On one side of the square, there is the Apostolic Palace which is actually a group of buildings including the Papal Apartment.
The Papal Apartment is the top floor of the Apostolic Palace where the pope resides. The top two right windows are the study and bedroom of the pope. On Sundays at noon, the pope usually appears at the second window from the right to pray the Angelus and bless the crowd in the Square.
The day we were there was Sunday as well so there were lots of people around in Vatican waiting to be blessed by the pope. The pope was in Milan that Sunday so he performed a TV blessing instead. The guide explained that square was not very busy that day like most Sundays when the Pope is in the city.
Even though I am not a Christian, I am really fascinated by history and religion. I have watched movies like Dark Angels and Da Vinci Codes which have taught a lot of things to me. Also AS is an avid reader and he has some knowledge of the Bible as well as lots of other books so he is my guide when I get lost with the history and religion. When he is lost too there is always Google.
The next morning, we had a local tour guide with us who took us inside the Vatican. I really liked her as she had so much knowledge and I could tell that she loved her job.
There was a long queue outside the Vatican main gate when we arrived there at 7.30am. As we were with tour and the guide had already booked our tickets, we didn’t need to wait on the queue. Instead we were escorted straight inside the Vatican City. At the entrance we were informed that flash photography was not allowed as it ruins the frescoes. Unfortunately, once inside I realised that no one was really following the rules as everywhere I looked I could see the flash of cameras.
When we got inside the guide went to get our tickets so we had time to look around while we waited. There were a few plasma TVs around the place and most of the inside was made out of the marble. There was heavy security like at airports so we needed to send our things through scanners. Once the guide came back she gave all of us our tickets.
Once we cleared the security, we took the accelerator to the other level and we were led into a big garden.
We stooped there for 15 minutes while she explained in detail about the Sistine Chapel. I am so fascinated by the whole history of the Sistine Chapel that I have decided to do a separate post for the chapel. I will post it soon.
From there we were ready to experience the tour of the Vatican Museum. Inside the museum, there were people everywhere. There were tour groups as well as individual tours who were admiring the massive museum arts and sculptures which were collected over the centuries.
First we entered the Raphael Rooms. There are classical sculptures, paintings and masterpieces from the Renaissance, among so many others. I really wished I had recorded what the guide told us about the arts in the museum. She had so much information that I was lost in it all. There were countless of other sculptures and arts that after a while, I was not even sure what they were.
I do remember her tell that they were masterpieces by famous artists like Michaelangelo, Rafael, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and many others. The Gallery of the Maps was filled with painted topographical maps.
The ceiling frescoes of the museum looked so marvellous. It looked like a 3D art but the guide explained that they were flat art so cleverly done that it looked like a 3D art.
After she was done explaining, she led us to Sistine Chapel and gave us an hour on our own to admire the beauty of the chapel. We also went to St Peters Basilica and I will post more on them in my next blog.
Going to Vatican was a really remarkable experience.