Is the Pope Catholic?

Trip Start Mar 01, 2007
Trip End Jul 01, 2009

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Flag of Vatican City  ,
Thursday, July 5, 2007

This wasn't your typical 4th of July celebration.  For one thing, it is very weird being in a foreign country on Independence Day.   As you might have guessed, there were no fireworks or barbeques in Prague, so instead of watching fireworks on the 4th, Joe and I flew to Rome.  

Joe picked out a little bed and breakfast that he found on the internet.  The advertisements made the place look really cute.  It looked like the room included a terrace with a great view of Rome.  Let's just say the place wasn't exactly as advertised.  For starters, there was no terrace, just a roof.For a bed and breakfast, this place sure didn't serve much of a breakfast (more like no breakfast).  But, it actually wasn't that bad.  It was basically like staying in someone's apartment.  And, it was close to the Vatican, which was nice. 

We got into Rome about 9:00pm on the 4th.  The owner of the "bed and breakfast" picked us up and drove us to our place.  I can see why people don't recommend driving in Italy.  There are basically no lanes and people just drive wherever they feel like it.  After checking into our "apartment" we decided to grab a bite to eat.  Our first authentic Italian meal was definitely less than stellar.  We had pizza and caprese salad and neither one was very good.   After dinner we called it a night so we could get ready for our big day at the Vatican.

Vatican City was amazing.  The two big tourist attractions, St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel were both awesome.  We hired a tour guide to take us through the Vatican and it was well worth the money. Our guide was very educated in both Roman and Christian history.   As a born-again Christian, I was interested to see what our guide's perspective was.   With comments such as "What they teach in Sunday school is a load of crap," makes me believe she is not a devout Christian.  On the other hand, she was very irritated with the author of the "Da Vinci Code's," Dan Brown, as she believed he had altered the truth to an extreme. 

Regardless of one's personal beliefs, seeing St. Peter's Basilica and the fresco of Michelangelo's in the Sistine Chapel was amazing.  St. Peter's Basilica is the richest and most impressive church on earth.  As Rick Steve's says in his "Best of Europe 2007" book, "To call it vast is like calling God smart."  There are marks on the floor to show where the next-largest churches would fit if they were put inside.  As you walk into St. Peter's Basilica, Michelangelo's "Pieta" is off to the right.  It is a sculpture of Mary holding the dead body of Christ.  The grave site of the apostle Peter is also here after Peter was crucified upside down.  We were always taught that he was crucified upside down because he wasn't worthy to be crucified as Christ was.  Our guide informed us that he was crucified upside down to symbolize "that the way of the world was not God's way."  The pictures we took on the inside of St. Peter's Basilica don't do it justice.  The size and beauty of the church really can't be captured on film. 
The Sistine Chapel was amazing in itself with Michelangelo's work "painted" on the ceiling.  They actually don't call it a painting, but rather a fresco.  A fresco has to be painted in tiny sections in order for the plaster to be the right temperature, which makes his work even more incredible, especially considering Michelangelo was more of a sculptor.  The Sistine is famous for Michelangelo's pictorial culmination of the Renaissance, showing the story of creation, with a powerful God weaving in and out of each scene.  Michelangelo spent four years on this work.  Later, a much older Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the "Last Judgement."  The message: Christ is returning, some will go to hell and some to heaven, and some will be saved by the power of the rosary.  Photos were not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but I'm sure that even if they were, it wouldn't do it justice.   

Our first full day in Rome was spent almost entirely at the Vatican.  Vatican City is its own country and has its own post office and radio station.  We didn't see the Pope as he only comes out on Wednesdays and Sundays.  I can only imagine the crowds on those days.  As it was, people were lined up for miles around the Vatican wall to get in to see the Sistine Chapel.  But, it was worth fighting the crowds and the heat in order to see what lies within the walls of Vatican City. 
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