|Photo: A military vehicle sits in the foreground, at the entrance to the plaza leading to St. Peter's Basilica.|
After walking past military guards, we entered the city-state (no passport required, though) and headed toward the Vatican Museums.
|Photo: People climb steps to enter the arched doorway of the Vatican Museums.|
|Photo: A sign depicting the painted scenes from the Old Testament on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel|
The Sistine Chapel is truly amazing. I was surprised to learn that the panel depicting the creation of Adam was not the center panel; the center panel showed the creation of Eve. I wonder about what Michelangelo's views of Eve were; did he recognize that she could be seen as a type of Christ? Is that why he painted her in the central panel, because Jesus Christ is central to the gospel? I would love to be able to talk with Michelangelo and ask him about his thought process.
|Photo: A sign showing Michelangelo's The Last Judgement|
The Last Judgement is an interesting work, but the story our guide told us made it even more interesting. Apparently when Michelangelo was painting the piece, one particular church leader kept bothering him. Finally, while Michelangelo was left to work in peace, he painted the likeness of this leader into the painting--as one of the devilish creatures in hell. When the work was unveiled, of course this man was outraged. He told the pope to do something, and apparently the pope replied that he only had authority on earth, but that he had no authority in hell, so the man's likeness remained as painted.
In the Vatican, everywhere we turned we saw more beauty. Our time in the Sistine Chapel was limited (the crowds are moved through on a regular basis, so everyone can have a chance.) Even though we had to exit the chapel, there were plenty of other beautiful buildings and pieces of art to enjoy.
|Photo: A statue of a young boy has stunning painted glass eyes|
|Photo: A series of enormously tall archways show one room leading into another|
|Photo: An elaborately-painted, ornate golden ceiling draws the eye upward in this long Hall of Maps|
The tour guide gave us a cursory sentence about the ceiling, something along the lines of, "The ceiling is beautiful," before she tried to get our attention turned to the maps that line the long hallway. The maps were amazingly accurate, given the time that they were drawn, but I'm sorry, I just couldn't stop staring at that incredible ceiling!
|Photo: The (albeit) amazing old map of Italy that was supposed to distract me from the shiny ceiling|
Next, it was on to St. Peter's Basilica, which is so large that even while standing inside, it is impossible to accurately fathom the scale. Signs are on the floor to compare the length of St. Peter's to other famous structures. Even without those helpful signs, it is obvious that St. Peter's is an enormous building. Notice that little tiny stained glass window at the far end of the building in the middle of the photo below. More on that later.
|Photo: The enormous interior of St. Peter's Basilica dwarfs the tourists inside.|
|Photo: A golden stained glass window, with an image of a dove in the center.|
Although the size of the building is awesome, the purpose of the basilica as a religious structure is also inspirational. Michelangelo's Pieta statue (which is the only statue he ever signed) helps to bring a feeling of reverence into the space.
|Photo: The Pieta sculpture by Michelangelo shows Mary holding a crucified Jesus across her lap.|
You don't have to be Catholic to appreciate Vatican City, and if you find yourself in Rome, I would recommend a visit to this unique country.