Stato della Città del Vaticano

{ Vatican City - May 2011 }

State of the City of Vatican.

I am fascinated with small little countries, such as Lietchstenstein, San Marino and Maldives. I am even more fascinated with small little countries that pack a punch, like Monaco. Of course, no other country is smaller than the Vatican City, and packs a bigger punch! I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of treasures and influence that Vatican City has!

A sovereign city-state with only 800 residents, the country is headed by the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, who is also the head of more than a billion Catholics around the world. For such a tiny little country, it has its own radio, television, telephone system, pharmacy and postal service. The postal service is recognised as one of the best in the world, but the postcard I sent from Vatican City was somehow lost in transit (or was it the Singapore's postal that lost it?), so I can't really say much about that!

Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) are full of treasures. There are classical sculptures, painting and masterpieces from the Renaissance, among so many others. The Vatican Museums started 505 years ago, when the pope bought the sculpture Laocoön and His Sons (below left). There are countless of other sculptures, that, unfortunately, after awhile, I am not sure what exactly I am looking at!

  

There are lots of paintings as well - framed, on the wall, on the ceiling, you name it! Many of them are masterpieces by famous artists - Michaelangelo, Rafael, Caravaggio, Leonardo da Vinci, Titian and many others. The Gallery of the Maps (below) is filled with painted topographical maps, and is great for the traveller in me!


The Sistine Chapel is also included on the visitor route, and that, of course, is where Michaelangelo painted some of his most famous paintings on the wall and ceiling. After hearing so much about it, the size of the painting still managed to amaze me. It was much bigger than I expected, and pretty amazing considering the detail of each of the paintings and the height and size of the ceiling! No photography was allowed, but then again, photos would not be able to show the magnificence of the painting. However, we were able to capture the exterior of this unassuming building from the rooftop of Saint Peter's Basilica.


Saint Peter's Square

After being immersed with all that the Vatican Museums had to offer, we walked along the Vatican walls towards Saint Peter's Square (Piazza San Peitro). Walking passed the columns that surrounded the square, the big open space that greeted us was a sight to behold. Designed by Bernini, the oval shaped square has an Egyptian obelisk in the centre, with two fountains on the sides and Saint Peter's Basilica standing right in the middle of it all.

  

The queue to the basilica was extremely long, probably due to the fact that we were there just days after the beatification of John Paul II (can you see the queue in the photo below?). So, we decided to change our plans and come back early the next morning to visit the basilica. We spent more time just walking around the square, watching the people and soaking in the fact that we were right there in the Vatican City.


Saint Peter's Basilica 

After changing our plans in view of the long queue to Saint Peter's Basilica the day before, we woke up early and joined the much shorter queue. We went straight up the dome, and decided to walk up, rather than taking the lift. Even if you take the lift, you would still need to walk the remaining way up the narrow corridor. We were greeted with a close up view of the inner part of the dome, which was also visible from the basilica.

  

After climbing more stairs along the corridor that became narrower the further up we climbed, we reached the top and stepped right out of the dome. The dome, which was partly designed by Michaelangelo, provided a bird's eye view of the Vatican City and the surrounding Rome.


The climb back down was much better, and we were able to enjoyed a quiet time above the rooftop of Saint Peter's Basilica, before joining the throngs of tourists and worshippers inside the basilica.


Once inside Saint Peter's Basilica, the first sculpture that greeted us was Michaelangelo's Pietà. This Renaissance masterpiece was sculpted by Michaelangelo when he was in his twenties! The next chapel was the tomb of Pope John Paul II, whose remains were placed beneath the altar on 2 May, just three days before we were there. Although surrounded by many tourists, there were also many others who were praying to the pope. And while I am not a Christian, I could not help, but to be filled with the hopes and prayers that the pope has given to all of them, and the sadness that his death has brought them.


We continued walking around the massive basilica, which has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. There were sculptures and artworks, one more brilliant than the next, if that was possible. There were not that many paintings, as all the artworks were carefully reproduced with mosaic, so small, that you would not realise they were not actual paintings from afar. And for that reason, photography is allowed in the basilica. 

  
  

We also had a chance to go down the grottoes, beneath the basilica, where many tombs were kept. Although surrounded by tombs, it did not have an eerie feeling. 


We could have continued to walk around and admire one masterpiece after the next, but agreed that it would probably take us a lifetime to appreciate them all. We walked out of the basilica, and away from the Vatican City, the smallest country in the world which has made such a huge impact and influence throughout the course of history, and I am pretty sure, for many more years to come.

::: Footnotes :::

{ Vatican City } Vatican City is the world's smallest country. It is definitely a must go on any visit to Rome. 

{ Vatican Museums } Vatican Museums is called Musei Vaticani in Italian. The museum is open from 9am to 6pm, with the last entry at 4pm. The entrance costs €15. If you want to skip the famous long queues, go early or buy online in their website for an extra fee of €4. We went in at 8am even before the museum was open officially! 

{ Saint Peter's Square } Piazza San Peitro, as it is called in Italian, is right in front of Saint Peter's Basilica. The grand approach to the square would be from Via della Conciliazione, which is connected to Ponte Sant'Angelo.

{ Saint Peter's Basilica } Officially known as Basilica Papale di San Peitro in Vaticano in Italian, entrance to the basilica is free. However, be prepared for the long queue. Be there early in the morning, or late in the afternoon. The basilica is open from 7am to 7pm everyday, but closed on Wednesday morning during papal audience. The dome is also open to public, with different entrance fee for going up with lift and without. 

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