The Vatican

If you’ve been living on another planet, then you may not know that the Vatican City is where the Pope, or leader of the Roman Catholic Church, resides.  It is a city unto a city in the heart of Rome.  They have their own separate government, rule of law, police and even post office.  If you ever visit Rome, you will never forgive yourself if you fail to visit the Vatican. 

Among the many wonders of the the Catholic Church, the city houses The Sistine Chapel and Michaelangelo’s Pieta – two of the defining works of art in Western civilization. To whet your appetite, below are pictures of the Vatican City guards, crest, grottoes and surrounding environs.

Vatican Museums

This small yet impressive collection is divided into many small museums linked by corridors. The Egyptian museum is one of the most visited and although it is not a very large collection it is well displayed and the rooms are decorated in Egyptian style. The Chiaramonti Gallery is dedicated to Roman and Greek sculpture. The Pius Clementine museum hosts the famous Greek statue of the ‘Laocoonte with serpents’. The Etruscan museum also houses a large selection of Greek and Roman works. The Galleria degli Candelabri e degli Arazzi is one of the museums which is less well-known but filled with lots of treasures; they exhibit both candelabras and tapestries (Arazzi) which were woven by the Flemish master, Pieter van Aelst, taken from cartoons by Raphael. Another interesting room contains geographical maps which are extremely precise, given that they are from the 16th century.

The Raphael rooms are one of the masterpieces of this vast collection where a series of rooms are each painted with a different theme by the ‘Grande Maestro’. Amongst the most well-known is the fresco of ‘The School of Athens’ where contemporary artists impersonated classical characters, for example, Leonardo da Vinci is portrayed as Plato.

There are six Borgia rooms, which were decorated for Pope Alexander VI by Pinturicchio and his pupils. The Sistine Chapel shows itself in all its beauty after a period of restoration. Many artists of calibre participated in the completion of this chapel, including Michelangelo, Perugino, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio and many others. The two hands that almost touch in the ‘Creation of Adam’ are instantly recognisable having appeared in many reproductions.

The Pinacoteca rounds off the collection with works from the Byzantine school, French and Dutch masters, the inimitable Titian, Raphael with his final work ‘The Transfiguration’, Caravaggio, and Leonardo’s ‘Saint Jerome’. A special permit is needed to visit Raphael’s Loggia, the Vatican Archives and the Vatican Library.

San Pietro

Every year, millions of visitors come here to hear the Pope speak and to receive the blessing on Sundays at noon. Since the original Constantinian basilica of 320 AD, St Peter’s has undergone various changes and radical transformations.

Among the major works of art we enjoyed included: The majestic dome, designed by Michelangelo, but completed only after his death by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana, is a sight to behold.  In addition, be sure to walk among Bernini’s magnificent colonnades which surrounds the piazza.  If you want the “million dollar” view of the square, be sure to trudge to the top of the dome.  If you want the “Pope” view, then you’re out of luck because the public is not allowed into the Pope’s chambers.  However, you can see where he waves to the crowd.  Its known as the Papal window.

If you thought the exterior was impressive, wait until you walk into the interior.  Stepping in St. Peters reminds of the power the Church once wielded in ancient times.  Statues litter the floor in ever corner and the faces tell tales of anguish, despair and jubilation – all the levers of humanity!

However, there of all the statues, the most famous is to your right as you enter.  It is Michelangelo’s La Pieta, which the artist finished at the age of 25. I’ve included a somewhat grainy picture largely due to the fact that its enclased in glass.  We understand that this was because when the statue was lent to museums in the U.S.A., a crazed observer attacked the statue and chipped it.  As a result, the public can no longer view it up close and personal.  The Holy Door, which is situated next to the statue of the Pieta, is opened only during Holy Year and has some very impressive carvings.

Giotto is represented by a mosaic, currently in the Holy Caverns, and a polyptych on the high altar. Numerous artists worked together on the decoration and on the design of St Peter’s: Bramante designed the interior floor plan, subsequently modified, of the cathedral; added to his design were two cupolas by Vignola; Pietro da Cortona made the Trinity for the Cappella del Sacramento in addition to executing the cartoons of the mosaics, terminated only after his death by one of his finest pupils, Ciro Ferri; and Antonio Canova produced the monument to Pope Clement XIII Rezzonico.


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