The Vatican City - House of The Pope

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Absy_Baby on October 16, 2009

On a recent trip to Rome I visited the Vatican State - this was mainly due to the fact I had just read Dan Brown's Angels and Demons. I would have gone anyway but I felt I already knew so much about the state from reading the book. Therefore I was far more interested.

I am not a religious person, never have been, I appreciate those who have faith and beliefs in their own god or gods, I just don't. For me what happens happens.

The Vatican City (state) is located in West Rome, it sits nicely near the bank of the River Timbre and at the front of course is the large front with the Popes balcony, St Peters dome and St Peters Square set out before it (how everyone pictures the Vatican).

It was a hot day and I must admit whoever designed St Peter's Square didn't think about the heat, the ground is dark which in turn becomes very hot. Don't wear think flimsy shoes, you will feel the heat on your soles.

The Vatican has 44 full time residents including the Pope. The Vatican City is walled off and officially the smallest independent state in the world. Not part of Italy. (Even though it's in the middle of it).

The Swiss Guard operate the security for the Vatican City and those chosen are amongst those trained to the highest standard in the world.

St Peters Dome

St Peter's dome is the large dome you can see from St Peter's Square or anywhere on your approach to the Vatican. It was Michelangelo's last great piece of work, the dome sits on St Peters Basilica (Church). It is a whooping 43 metres in diameter with a 71 metre perimeter. It also has 16 windows.

The dome is accessible to tourists; it can be confusing getting in to the Vatican to see the things you want, as there are many entrances for different parts and attractions.

Entrance to the dome is at the front (St Peter's Square) on the right hand side. You must queue here and then when you enter the front of St Peter's Basilica you must queue to the right hand side (always the longest queue) to gain access to the dome. This costs: 8 Euro's per adult.

The dome provides great views over the city of Rome and the Vatican.

St Peters Basilica

St Peter's Basilica is the Church of St Peter, the first Pope. It is built on the tomb of Saint Peter who was crucified in 60 AC the resting place of Saint Peter has always raised questions.

Works started in 315 AC and were finished approximately 11 years later. Pope Nicola V decided to restore the Basilica to its former glory after a millennium of history had taken place within its walls. However after his death works were ceased on the command of Pope Giulio II, changing the project into the building of a new cathedral. Since many other alterations and demolitions undertaken over the years, we now have the current, spectacular St Peter's Basilica.

The architecture, sculptures, painting and detail throughout the whole basilica is quite extraordinary and amazing, I don't find churches appealing but the work and detail inside this building is quite breath taking.

Today the basilica is able to house 20,000 people in to the most famous church in Christianity and the house of god.

Entry is free.

Sistine Chapel

The entrance to the Sistine Chapel is not visible from the front (or what I call the front - St Peter's Square) you must walk round the walled state going right.

I would say the entrance is virtually half way round the entire state (so directly half way from the entrance at St Peters). I would call this the back. The entrance is quite large and seems purpose built for tourists. It is labelled Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums.

After queuing for 20 minutes we entered and queued to pay for our tickets. This cost 7 Euro's per adult.

Walking to the Sistine Chapel is quite far as you have to walk through many passages that include the Tapestry Gallery, this is great and you feel like you're getting your money's worth BUT I do find 20 corridors of very similar things boring (or dragged out).

The Sistine Chapel is amazing and home to the famous painting by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, commissioned by Pope Julius II.

In the Sistine Chapel you are not supposed to talk (which is fine, except people do and the guards or workers shout at them to shut up) this completely ruins the atmosphere and totally lacks respect.

You are NOT allowed to take photos in here either.

Tombs of the Popes

The Tombs of the Popes was quite surreal and weird, I have since learned there is a webcam watching and streaming live over the internet - I find this odd due to the nature of the attraction.

The Tombs of the Popes is pretty much what it is called - the many tombs of the previous Popes. You walk down a corridor in to a chamber that is mostly white and clean. It is not eerie.

The tombs of various Popes are laid out on each side of the walk way around the chamber.

The strange thing is each tomb seems quite elaborate and extravagant until you reach the most recent which was John Paul II (1978-2005), his tomb, is a slab of marble, that lies pretty much flat on the floor, there is no sculpture of him, it wouldn't look too out of place in a normal cemetery. It was quite disappointing as he was the Pope when I was born and the one I have seen on TV before he died.

Entry is Free.

The Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums contain paintings, sculptures and other masterpieces collected by the Popes throughout their rein.

The Sistine Chapel is technically part of these Museums.

The Museums are open every weekday morning and early afternoon to the public in the summer months.

These are a collection of different areas named specific museums relating to what is in them. Some of them are:
Raphael's Rooms
Egyptian Museum
Etruscan Museum
Gregorian Profane Museum
Chiaramonti Museum - Braccio Nuovo Gallery
Missionary Ethnological Museum
Chariot Room

And many more. There is also a workshop for the restoration of paintings etc which includes a scientific laboratory.

Entry is Free every last Sunday of each month otherwise there is a charge.

My Thoughts

I liked the Vatican City, it was interesting and it owns the most amazing architecture, paintings, works of art, you name it, they own it.

They have the largest catalogue in the world, and although barely anything is on display, there is more than enough to look at.

It is annoying how you have to pay separately for different parts of attractions but I suppose this helps when you don't want to visit certain areas, so you can just pay as you go. I just didn't like all the different queues.

If visiting Rome you MUST visit the Vatican City, I can't explain how thoroughly interesting and mesmerising it is, so take my word for it, as the saying goes - when in Rome.

A lot of the Vatican City isn't on display and you can understand that, simply because it is the Pope's home. But it did get us thinking, he must get lost in all the corridors (it's big and confusing) and b) does he have camera's everywhere and watch and laugh at the tourists?

A very good experience and if you don't want to go in for the religious aspect, go in to get out of the sun. You might enjoy it and surprise yourself.

Vatican City
Rome, Italy

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