The Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel and the St. Peter’s Basilica … a whole new (old) world!

St Peter's Square
St Peter’s Square

The Vatican city is about 44 hectares (110 acres) in size, with a population about 800. This makes the Vatican City the smallest independent state in the world by both area and population.
Now this is a whole new world all together! Where the best of the best is coming together in one place – amazing!!! A must see … and almost impossible to to capture it with words!
I had to do a whole new slid show and blog for The Vatican and St Peters’ … It is just did not feel right not to – and it is such a special part of Rome and really need that extra exclamation, I thought!

Coming down the Via della Conciliazione (the long street that runs from the Tiber River to St. Peter’s Square) it looked like the red carpet entrance to the Vatican city!….. St Peter’s Square appears like a bright light in front of you with St Peter’s Basilica’s dome like a jewel in a distance! So amazing!! The architecture and scale is all so overwhelming that I did not know where to start taking pictures just to make sense of it all! Too big to fit into one picture (from where I was standing) … so my very first reaction was to take a panoramic and come back later for the detail – Which is exactly what I have done!

Walking through the Vatican museum was such an exciting, invigorating experience! It contains masterpieces of paintings, sculptures and several other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. Some of the most impressive artwork to me was the tapestries! (The size of it could easily be 5×10 meters! ) These massive Flemish tapestries, were made in Brussels by a school for artists … from drawings by Raphael’s pupils. Very typically Raphael – with lots of drama and expression and movement in it! The 3D depth and the detail in it almost bowled me for a six! I would have thought it was a painting … the extremely fine and detailed work and perfect choice of colour in the folds of the faces was amazing – no …it is Magic!

I almost lost my tour group there! I just could not get enough of it! In fact ( you pay a pretty penny to go on these guided 4 hour tours and in the next room, we did loose one of the ‘absent minded’ girls – never to be seen again … it was just not worth looking for her in amongst thousands of people! Very sad – her poor husband was a mess when he realised what has happened! But I can see that it easily happens! The distraction is huge and very tempting!

The Artists of the time:
What amazes me most of all is the versatile nature of the artists of those days. They were not only painters or sculpturers …they were everything! The masters of architectural design, poetry, the fine art of painting, and sculpture, they were it all!!!
I keep on wondering where it all went wrong – that we stopped “producing” those kinds of artists?? Specializing has probably ruined it all and I think to a big extend the remuneration aspect of it too!! Nowadays one would never find those qualities in one person …if you still find it? Detail has fallen by the way to make place for speed and less expensive buildings …in a way time and money have robbed the modern society of the splendour they once produced in earlier days! We can now only hope that they will forever try and preserve what is out there and please … make sure to go and experience the quality of real artists!

Rain in the Vatican City
Rain in the Vatican City

The Biblical Figures became real people:
Another unbelievable experience of the Vatican, was to follow the tracts of figures that used to be only part of a story from the Bible. I found it very moving and almost an awakening experience to realise that they were all real people and did not only live in the voices of my Mom or Sunday school teacher. I was standing in the church where St Peter (or as we use to know him as Simon Peter -one of the twelve apostles of Jesus) was preaching when he first came to Rome, and at the spot ( in the Clementine Chapel oval) where he has been crucified under Emperor Nero. (The cross being upside down at his own request since he saw himself unworthy to be crucified in the same way as Jesus Christ). I can now understand the emotions going through the followers on a pilgrimage !
Michelangelo's 'The Last Judgment' at the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo’s ‘The Last Judgment’ at the Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is a amazing piece of art on its own! It was built in the late 1400 and was mainly used for assemblies by the clergy of the Pope. A very colourful vibrant room! I was very surprised to find it almost a joyful room with all the brightly painted walls!
The walls were painted by well known Florentine artists with Biblical scenes and the lower part of the massive walls were frescoed with draperies (velvet curtains ) with the pope’s coat of arms on. It looks so real that you have to touch it to know what you are looking at. Many versions of the “Last Supper” was painted over the years … this one is quite different (done by Rosselli) where Judas has his back to the viewer with a small devil on his shoulder!
The Sistine Chapel would not be mentioned without immediately linking it to Michelangelo! The ceiling is Michelangelo’s masterpiece and one of the most important painting cycles in the world (covering 800 sq metres of great good fresco painting.) It took him four years to complete. The theme here: The history of mankind before the coming of Christ. It is absolutely amazing but I hated it that I ended up with a stiff neck from looking up all the time just to enjoy the wonderful art in this chapel.

Twenty four years later Michaelangelo (then in his mid 60’s) also painted the “Last Judgement”. The theme represented mankind’s inevitable Fate and God as the absolute judge of man’s destiny. Very dramatic with God at the top and the figures on the left, rising to Heaven, but most are damned (the naked people on the right, plunging into Hell). A fabulous, mind blowing piece of art!
Michaelangelo is my absolute favourite artist of all time! I have to say – I was so impressed to see his best sculptures (Michelangelo’s Pietà is one of the Vatican’s best known artworks) and paintings (The Sistine Chapel ) as well as the majestic architectural design of his in the ST Peter’s Basilica! It was almost too much to take in in one day …I would love to see it one more time …just to make sure I will never forget it!
(By the way don’t forget to look down when you ever go there! The splendid 15th century mosaic floor is all still the very original piece and has never been changed!)

Dome of St Peter's Basilica
Dome of St Peter’s Basilica

Saint Peter’s Basilica, is a beautiful Renaissance church located within Vatican City – one of the largest churches in the world. The architecture is what St Peter’s is renowned for. Fabulous Renaissance architecture! Saint Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites with Saint Peter’s tomb directly below the altar of the basilica. Here again you will find that it is decorated with fabulous artwork by all the famous artists of the time – a whole lot of Michaelangelo’s sculptures are very prominently displayed everywhere … not only that … his all time masterpiece was the architectural design of a large part of the building as it stands today! Michelangelo, then in his 70’s, took over from multiple previous designers (Raphael was one but he died at a young age). All in all it took 120 years to build the Saint Peter’s Basilica!

I can go on and on … but the last amazing feature and most prominent of the St Peter’s is for sure the Dome! The dimensions are mind boggling and you wonder how did they do it in those days? The dome of St. Peter’s is 136.57 metres high from the floor to the top of the external cross. It is the tallest dome in the world! It is quite an amazing experience to just stand there and take it all in! The dome is that high (and built on top of a hill) in order for it to be visible from almost every angle of the city of Rome!
I never got to the Vatican gardens, and looking at it on the Internet, I am very sad that rainy weather kept me from it on the day. It looks spectacular! This will also have to wait for next time!! I know I will be back!

You will need Adobe Flash downloaded to see the picture slide show underneath every post I made!

2 thoughts on “The Vatican City, The Sistine Chapel and the St. Peter’s Basilica … a whole new (old) world!”

  1. I’m not that much of a internet reader to be honest but your blogs really nice, keep it up! I’ll go ahead and bookmark your site to come back in the future. Many thanks

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