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At the end of the day tour, I ended up at the Basilica of St. Peter, the seat of the Popes, the centre of the Roman Catholic world. The entry into the Basilica is a double colonnade of enormous columns arranged in a semicircle, white in the bright sunlight. You walk into St. Peter's through enormous bronze doors. One door, the Jubilee Door, is sealed shut and only open once every five years, to celebrate the Jubilee. St.
I spent about twenty minutes in front of the Pieta, taking photographs, looking at it from different angles. The Virgin Mary looks young, and her expression is that of gentleness and peace, not of anguish. Christ is draped across her knees, seemingly asleep. Michaelangelo did not sculpt Christ with any wounds or nails, surprisingly enough, because he wanted the sculpture to portray the peace of resignation to God's will. The Pieta is the only sculpture that Michaelangelo signed.
I went next to the bronze altar. On the floor or centre of the altar is St. Peter's tomb, in the catacombs below. The bronze altar was built directly over St. Peter's tomb. The theme of St. Peter as the rock of the church is repeated over and over in the Basilica. In two metre high gold lettering on the rim of the dome, it is written in Latin: You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church (direct from the Gospel).
It would take an age to describe everything in the Basilica of St
After a few owl-eyed hours, I was on overload. I had about two hours to spare for lunch. I decided to look for a restaurant in the Lonely Planet guidebook. But my directional sense is not as good as my roommate's, and so I walked along the Vatican walls, confused, until I found a little restaurant that served a three-course meal for 13 euro. The owners were really friendly and hospitable, even to a single traveller like myself. One amusing thing I noticed is that once I'm brave enough to go into a restaurant and sit at the sidewalk area, other single female travellers come into the restaurant too. Two, in fact! One of them said that she was from Russia, and she was looking forward to the Map Room in the Vatican Museums. (The map room?! What map room?! But I was stoked.)
The highlight of the day was the Vatican Museum. Words fail me. The Popes, God bless them, were crazier than private art collectors. They kept unearthing and collecting Roman art, and so the Vatican Museum has one of the richest collections of pagan art in the world
Finally, right in the heart of the Vatican Museum, were the crown jewels of the Vatican Museum: Raphael's enormous frescoes, each covering one of four rooms of the ancient Papal apartments. One fresco illuminated how men may reach the truth, through science, and the other fresco illuminated how men may reach the truth through religion. It was wonderful to feast my eyes on the vibrant, subtle, swirling colours. I finally understand why the art world thinks that Raphael is one of the greatest artists in the world.
The final stop of the tour was the Sistine Chapel. The first thing you notice is the explosion of colour - bright subtle yellows and reds of the prophet's clothing, the aquamarine blue of the Last Judgment, Christ with bodies swirling around him, and the light clear bright colours of the frescoes on the ceiling. I saw Michaelangelo's portrayal of God, reaching out to Adam to give him the spark of life, and Adam's langorous response
We spent as much time as possible in the Sistine Chapel, but it is a crowded place, full of tourists craning their necks upwards to look at the frescoes. Finally, near the late afternoon, we left the Sistine Chapel and into St. Peter's Basilica again, to the bright sunlight of the entrance of St. Peter's.
I think I headed straight home that day, not stopping really to have much of an actual dinner, as my eyes had feasted. I dropped into a dreamless sleep that night.