Thursday in Rome – the Vatican

10/30 – we saved the trip to the Vatican for our last day in Rome, so we could spend it cheek to cheek with 14,000 of our closest friends. We took the Metro to get there. In Rome, there are two Metro lines that go around the edges of the city, to avoid disrupting all the historic places within, so we had a long walk in addition to our cross-town ride.

The Vatican is both a huge place and a small country. Our primary goal is to see St. Peter’s Basilica, where the tombs of Peter, Simon the Zealot, and Thaddeus, also called Jude, are found. But while we are there, shouldn’t we also see the Sistine Chapel, recently cleaned and restored, with ceiling painted by my fave, Michelangelo? Yes, we should! The catch is that you cannot see the Chapel without purchasing a ticket to the Vatican Museums, so that is what we did.

We pre-booked a time to enter the Museums, to avoid the long lines, and this works well, although we still had to queue to get through an airport-like security screening. The Museums are diverse and wonderful, containing Egytian and Etruscan artifacts, tapestries, ancient maps and coins, frescos, loads of paintings, sculpture, and a room full of papal carriages, including the famous Popemobile. You could stay here a week and not see everything. The challenge is, with so many people, it’s hard to see ANYthing. Here’s some pix,mainly of ceilings and what I could shoot over the heads of others:

All the corridors of the museum have signs pointing to the Sistine Chapel. It is everyone’s goal. When we finally get there, guards are posted every few feet to push us onward. “No stopping, no pictures, no speaking. Silenzio!”. We are all craning our heads upward, trying to take in the details of all the stories. There is a low buzz from the people, admiring and exclaiming, that is interrupted every few minutes by another Silenzio! And a hiss… in Italy, they don’t shush, they hiss.

There are so many panels, and I only recognize some – Adam and Eve, the Last Supper, Noah, God touching Man. They are indeed clean, bright and pastel, not the smoky images remembered from my books. But my first impression is that they are so small – in my mind, God touching Man is huge, but in fact it is only one panel amidst many others, packed together like frames on a page of comic book. No photos were permitted, so here is a pic from a postcard in the gift shop:IMG_3438

After several tries, we found our way out of the museum and back on the road for the 10 minute walk to St. Peter’s Basilica, again with thousands of friends.

There was another security screening before we could enter the basilica, and the long line gave us plenty of time to take pix of the exterior. It is said that the two wings of the Basilica represent St. Peter reaching out his arms to embrace humanity.

We met an American couple, who had also been visiting churches. When we compared notes, we hadn’t been to any of the same places! I’m glad our Apostle quest is giving us a focus, or we could be here forever. Rome has no shortage of churches!

St. Peter’s is the biggest basilica in Rome, and is stunning. Peter’s tomb holds pride of place under the main altar,behind a gate, so we can’t approach too closely. The pic on the left is magnified – can you see the ossuary?

The left transept contains the Altar of St. Joseph, which is where the remains of Simon the Zealot and Thaddeus/Jude reside:

And then there was Michelangelo’s Pieta, just as beautiful as when I saw it in New York at the Worlds Fair in 1964:image

On our way out, we caught a glimpse of the Swiss guards: image

All in all, a lovely day!image

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