Our last day in the Italian capital was solely dedicated to the Vatican City. I may have been there done that in 2012, but I definitely didn’t have the t-shirt. I couldn’t wait to get back – all I could really remember of the 0.44 sqkm sovereign state was being completely and utterly in awe of it. As soon as we arrived in the square, I realised that my feelings and memories of the smallest city in the world were not about to change.
Thanks to our Omnia passes, we were able to by-pass the four-hour queue in the 43 degree heat and jump to the front of the line for the Vatican museum. The museum is fascinating and there are some beautiful pieces of art held here – but we were racing to the finish line; Michelangelo’s masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel.
I never studied art history at school or university, but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to appreciate this place. The chapel was originally built for and named after Pope Sixtus IV in 1483 but it wasn’t until 1508 that Pope Julius II was able to persuade Michelangelo to paint the 800 sqm ceiling. Michelangelo initially declined this commissioning as he viewed himself as a sculptor with virtually no painting experience – yet he eventually accepted and worked on the now world-famous masterpiece 20 meters above the ground for four solid years. Julius asked Michelangelo to paint the twelve apostles along with a series of decorative architectural elements on the ceiling – but he rejected this request and painted a much more complex design which we see today, based on stores from the book of Genesis.
When you walk in, silence is requested and photography is denied. I almost feel as though the silent request doesn’t need be stated as you can’t help but be completely speechless. It is absolutely phenomenal. There we were, standing with our necks craned up and jaws dropped down, shaking our heads in disbelief that it was real. It’s hard to wrap your head around the concept that this ceiling was hand painted so many hundreds of years ago. I can barely draw a stick figure!
We left after a pretty special prayer with a priest inside the chapel and after a terrible, touristy lunch at Cafe Vatican (where we were absurdly ripped off by an Italian waiter who spoke to us in what he thought was Kiwi lingo) we ventured towards St Peters Square in aim of the Basilica. Thanks to doing a few months through Europe in 2012, I’ve been lucky enough to witness more than my fair share of gorgeous churches but I can still say, hand on heart, that none hold a candle to St Peters Basilica. It is Italy’s largest, richest and most spectacular church and contains some incredible pieces of art as well as the Vatican tombs. Construction started on this masterpiece in 1506 but it wasn’t officially opened till 1626 and is the most renowned work of renaissance architecture. It is the burial site of its namesake, St Peter, who was an Apostle to Jesus Christ’s and the first Pope of Rome.
I wasn’t brought up a practising Catholic, Christian, Buddhist, Jew – or any specific religion for that matter. I was however, brought up with beliefs, morals and values that you can argue (and my mum has always claimed) are derived from an array of religions. It was always instilled in my sister and I that everyone is entitled to their own set of beliefs, morals and values and that we should always be open and appreciative of this. Based on that, I’d say mum and dad did the parent thing pretty well! So although I wasn’t brought up a Catholic, it’s strange the way St Peters Basilica almost made me want to convert to Catholicism right there on the spot. It wins me over each time! Both times I have been inside this spectacular place of worship, I have felt the need to pray. I don’t know why – I’m not religious – but it is just so moving and powerful I can’t help but feel brainwashed by its beauty. The commitment, dedication and devotion to this building is overwhelming and can be felt the instant you step inside.
If you’re ever considering going to Italy or Rome – you literally can not miss this place. Words, or even photos, literally don’t it justice.
The Vatican; inspiring, moving and absolutely breathtaking.
// Info ~
IMAGES // snapshot of our day at the Vatican here …
WHAT // The Vatican
WHERE // Rome, Italy
HOW // Bus 40 from Termini Station will take you right to St Peters square
TOP TIP // There’s a strict dress code inside the Sistine Chapel and the Basilica, so make sure you have your knees and shoulders covered – even in the unbearable heat of a Roman summer!
WEBSITE // http://w2.vatican.va/content/vatican/it.html