Well maybe. Actually no, he's not even in town. But the title sounded good. Today we toured the Vatican. The Vatican is a walled enclave inside the city of Rome. ½ square km, population is less than 1000 made up of mostly catholic clergy and swiss guard. It is the smallest internationally recognized independent state with its own national anthem and flag. The official language is Latin, but Italian is widely used. While not part of the EU it does use the Euro. It has been the residence of the Pope since 1337, presumably since that pope moved from the Castel San Angelo up the river. The Pontifical Swiss Guard has been in charge of security since the 16th century.
A shot from yesterday but you can see the wall of the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica. Papal apartments to the right of the dome.
The Swiss Guard came to be January 21, 1506 when pope Julius II (1503 – 1513) started recruiting mercenaries from the German speaking areas of Switzerland. They were fierce, disciplined fighters and very loyal when paid well and given lots of meat to eat. The inductees had to satisfy certain criteria; just under 6 feet minimum height, under 30 years of age, must have had military training in Switzerland. Motto is Fortier et Fideliter (with strength and loyalty).
Despite what it looks like his eyes were open. He wasn't sleeping, just bad timing on my part.
St Peter’s Square was designed by Bernini in 1656. The square is made up of two conjoined spaces. The first is the elliptical Piazza Obliqua with the semi-circles of covered colonnades, central obelisk and fountains. Atop the colonnades are 140 marble statues of saints, martyrs, popes and founders of religious orders. The ashes of Caesar are said to rest at the foot of the obelisk and a relic of the Holy Cross is hidden in its tip. The obelisk was found in the Circus of Nero’s palace and erected here in 1586. From the fountains, the 4 rows of columns in the colonnade line up into one. Closer to the church is the trapezoidal Piazza Retta which grows wider toward the church.
St Peter’s Basilica is at the end of the piazza and where we started our tour day. The apostle Peter is said to have been crucified upside down in Nero’s stadium in 64 AD. The Christian emperor Constantine built the first church in 319 atop the spot where Peter’s grave was said to be. The original church was demolished in 1506. Michelangelo, Bernini and Bramante were the primary architects of the current building which dates from the Renaissance, built between 1506 – 1626. Under the triangular pediment is the balcony where the pope gives blessings. Above this, huge statues of Jesus and 11 apostles stand but somewhat ironically no Peter. Around the dome inside are the words “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church and I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven”.
This museum is so huge that you can really only see a very small part each trip. We picked statuary and the map room as two main things to see.
And some maps. Painted on the walls 20'x20' or so. Huge.
Just in case you get bored looking at the maps, you can also look up. The ceiling in the map room was one of the most impressive things we have seen anywhere. And it goes on for at least one or more city blocks!
The Sistine Chapel, now part of the Vatican museum was built in 1473 – 1483. It is the site of the papal enclave (the election of a new pope). The famous ceiling was painted by Michelangelo between 1508 – 1512. No photos of course. But not for the usual reasons. Nippon TV funded the restoration and as such got exclusive rights for photos, video, books and postcards. Those rights actually expired in 1997 but they kept the rule.
We did however buy some postcards. Here are some photos from the net: