on September 16, 2010
Vatican City is a small sovereign state within Rome that contains the residence of the Pope. In the centre of Vatican City stands the amazing St Peters Basilica.St Peter’s Basilica is the largest Catholic Church in the world. It took over 120 years to build as was eventually consecrated in 1626. The statistics for this building are amazing and it is said that it can hold 60000 people for a mass. Entry is free but there are masses on Wednesday and Sunday when the area is very crowded.You approach St Peters across the enormous St Peter’s Piazza. The stunning columns dominate the front and the intricate dome looks like it is actually a little too small for such an impressive structure. Visitors to the Basilica have to have a bag search similar to an airport and are then subjected to a clothing check. Respectful attire must be worn at all times and entry will be refused (we saw several people turned away) if your shoulders are uncovered, your knees are not covered or your clothes are generally too revealing. Men must remove their hats. If you arrive and realise that you have shorts or a strappy top there are plenty of people wondering around just outside the Vatican City gates who sell colourful scarves which will allow you to cover up. The queue moves extremely quickly. Don’t be tempted to use your mobile phone inside or take your scarf off or you will be rapidly escorted outside.Nothing can prepare you for the sight that greets you as you enter the Basilica. I have seen hundreds of churches and cathedrals but this magnificence of the decoration and the pure scale of this one is breath-taking. The marble sculpture, the mosaic pictures, the excessive gilding and the gorgeous floor tiles are everywhere you turn. One of the best sculptures is that of Michelangelo’s Pita which is found in a niche on the right as you enter. The dominating feature as you walk down the central nave is the baldachin canopy over the papal alter that was designed by Bernini. This consists of four twisted brass columns supporting the flamboyant canopy and it stands over 26ft high. The tomb of St Peter is here and this is also the burial site for many of the Popes.The light flooding through the dome is a beautiful spectacle and because there are no paintings in here you are welcome to take photographs. It is very difficult to comprehend any idea of scale once you are inside, there is a frieze down the centre and the lettering is well over 6ft high but it doesn’t look anywhere near that big. Down the centre there is a list of the largest churches in the world and their distance and size in relation to St Peters.There is not a square inch of this Basilica that is not ornately decorated and a visit to its wonderfully cool interior is a welcome break from the heat and the hustle and bustle that is Rome. Whether you are religious or not this is definitely a place worth visiting.
©Travelocity.com LP 2000-2009