St Peter and the Vatican
Today was the first of three tours we had booked. We were heading to the Vatican City, a country within a country. We weren't too sure what to expect, we had seen many groups going through lots of tourist places and so we figured we would be on something like that. But we were wrong. It was just us and the guide, our own private tour, yippee!
The entry to the Vatican
Our tour guide, she was fantastic.
It didn't take us long to get in, no long lines today ... fist pump! We were quickly through and standing in the main courtyard that had a good view of the Basilica of St Peter's Cathedral.
St Peter was a disciple of Jesus and he died in Rome and is apparently buried where the Cathedral is built.
The Vatican is made up of two galleries that were built at different times. Originally one part was the Summer Palace, near the river (back in those days) and a lazy pope decided he didn't want to walk outdoors so he had one of the galleries built so he didn't have to walk outside. They now store much of the Vatican's art and statue collection.
They are very beautifully decorated and different popes asked for different things, so there is a large range of things that exist in the galleries. You can tell who did what by the crest that is in each part. Each pope has his own crest.
The more recent popes have a collection of modern art. These are a couple of famous artists but we did see Francis Bacon, Matisse, Chagall, Kandinsky and many, many more.
Matisse (I think)
We continued through the Modern Art area, past the map room (Asher took lots of photos here, but I was to busy looking and listening) and on towards the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel is very famous because the ceiling is painted by Michaelangelo. The walls are also painted by a range of artists of the time, including Raphael & Leonardo Di Vinchi. In fact, a number of the rooms in the palace of the Vatican have a number of these artists work in them. And I mean on the walls and ceilings - literally.
We weren't allowed to take photos in the chapel, just look. I managed to snap this on the stairs. There were many 'staff' inside the chapel telling everyone where to go and stand, growling at those that naughtily took a picture and asking everyone to be silent (quite loudly). We were led in a short mass, as we were there at 12 o'clock.
Once out we headed towards the Basilica. We were shown where they light the smoke to say if a new Pope has been chosen by the Cardinals. Below is a photo of the stairs the Pope heads down to stand on the balcony and wave/give mass to the crowds.
And just like that, we were at St Peter's Cathedral. It was very, very big and in front, it had this huge square with lots of seats set out for people to use on a Wednesday morning when the Pope takes mass.
We were shown the Jubilee Door or Holy Door that only gets opened once every 25 years and one other very special occasions. The back of the door is covered in concrete and the Pope breaks through the concrete with a silver hammer and then the doors are opened for one year. Last time it was opened was 2016 for a special occasion and it will be again in 2025 when Asher is 22 and Hannah is 20, gulp.
We wandered around the church and it was very, very beautiful. Everywhere you looked there were mosaics on the walls, statues, decorated ceilings and special places to pray or light a candle.
This is the Michaelangelo statue of Jesus and Mary after Jesus was taken down from the cross. It now has glass in front of it because a crazy Australian man attacked it with a hammer a number of years ago. It seems he was mentally unwell at the time. They have restored it but you can't get close to it.
The dome - we could have walked up to it. 300 ish stairs plus an elevator and then 500 plus more.
After thanking and farewelling our wonderful guide we went downstairs to the Crypt, which wasn't scary. I didn't know you weren't allowed to take photos here and took two before Asher told me. Opps. We saw St Peter's tomb and many other pope's tombs.
Then it was outside into the light to spot the Swiss Guard and make our way out to find some food. We were hungry! It had been three or more hours on our feet and looking at things. I think I had a bit of a crick in my neck from all the ceilings.
You can just see a Swizz Guard behind us.
Huge columns. Huge.
An obelisk. They are everywhere in Rome.
We headed back to the apartment so we could rest and get out of the heat. The plan - to go out at dinner time to see the area we are staying in.