Thursday, December 4, 2014

Vatican City (Day 3)

So, this little trip to Rome I took was a quick one. Two days in flight, three days on ground.  Day three was my last day touring Rome.  It didn't start off too exciting, though. I went to Rome with a group of teachers to be trained and get prepared to travel with my students overseas in March.  Day three was scheduled to be a training day with a little adventure to Vatican City in the afternoon.

Therefore, after another morning of a breakfast that was definitely lacking Americanization, we all headed for the most oddly laid out training room ever.  The room had two large square pillars placed in the center of the room, one about 1/3 of the way into the room and the other about 2/3 of the way into the room.  They provided a lovely block from being able to actually SEE the presenters.  Depending on where you sat, you could have been staring at a pillar for five hours.  AND, not just that, but the pillars were mirrored. So actually, depending on where you sat, you may actually be staring at yourself for five hours!  To top it off, this training was done with no tables to take your notes on or rest your body on, just chairs, straight back, uncomfortable, no arm rest chairs....for FIVE HOURS.  It was less than pleasant.  I guess I can't complain too much, though, seeing as how our training was in ROME.

Once the training was finished, we ate lunch and headed out to Vatican City.  I was super excited.  This was the part of the tour I was the most stoked for.  We were scheduled to tour the Vatican, visit the Sistine Chapel, and of course, end our time in the Vatican City with a tour of St. Peter's Basilica. 

Let me tell you, it did not disappoint.  The Vatican is so full of history, culture, and art. Oh, the was like an art hoarders dream. 

The Sistine Chapel was breathtaking to say the least.  It was painted by Michelangelo from 1508-1512.  Michelangelo was commissioned by the Pope to basically cover the walls in pictorials of events from the Bible.  Much of those four years, Michelangelo spent on his back painting the ceiling.  The ceiling is divided up into 33 different frames, each illustrating scenes from the Old Testament. It is said that once completed, Michelangelo threw his paint brush on the Pope's desk and told him that he was done, he would never paint again. And, he didn't...for 25 years. Honestly, I don't blame him. Look at how much work went into painting the Sistine Chapel!

From the amount of people piled into this one small chapel shoulder to shoulder with little room to walk or move around, to the breathtakingly beautiful masterpieces painted by Michelangelo surrounding you in every which direction you look, the Sistine Chapel is truly a "must visit" experience. I was the most awed by Michelangelo's depiction of The Last Judgment.  This piece of art depicts the second coming of Christ on the altar wall.  It was not part of the original paintings done by Michelangelo, though.  Twenty five years after completing the ceiling and sides of the Sistine Chapel and vowing to never paint again, in 1535, Pope Clement VII  was able to commission Michelangelo to return to the Sistine Chapel to paint the resurrection on the altar wall.  However, soon after, Pope Clement VII died and his successor found The Last Judgment to be a more appropriate choice for the wall. I stood staring at the wall for what seemed like forever; it is so full meaning, symbolism, and Michelangelo's personality and feelings about what was going on in the world around that time in history.  Sadly, photography is strictly forbidden in the Sistine Chapel, but here are a few of the paintings I was most taken by.


Of course, this is The Last Judgment.  Let me be the first to say, I am in no way an art connoisseur or even a huge fan of most art, but this is just beautiful.   If you're a Christian, take a minute to look up the symbolism Michelangelo put into this depiction.  There are pieces all over this painting that, unknowing, mean nothing at all but knowing what they are and why they're there makes it such an interesting piece of work.  Did you know Michelangelo's own face is in this painting???  Did you know there's a man with donkey ears?
This is the ceiling of the chapel.  The nine large scenes along the middle of the ceiling are from the book of Genesis, depicting the creation.  Along the outer edges are pictorials of prophets, scenes from the salvation of Israel, and pictorials of other important figures from the Bible. 
Following our visit to the Sistine Chapel, we were led into St. Peter's Basilica. 
St. Peter's Basilica is on the grounds of where the first apostle, Peter, was crucified and buried.  The Basilica is considered one of the holiest sites for the Catholic community, houses the tombs of countless centuries worth of Popes, and is the Pope's principal church.  Also built in the 1500s, many famous artists/designers, including Michelangelo and Rafael, can lay claim to different pieces of artwork and design in the basilica.  The basilica houses items such as:

The Pieta: Before Michelangelo was a well-known, highly regarded painter, he worked fixing sculptures who had fallen victim to the hands of time.  In 1499, the Pope at the time saw the talent Michelangelo possessed and requested him to create a sculpture for him of the Virgin Mary cradling her crucified son.  This was the result.  It is such a powerful piece of art; literally, The Pieta brought tears to my eyes.

Below St. Peter's Basilica is a crypt, housing the tombs of previous Popes.  However, any Pope who is declared a Saint is actually buried within the Basilica itself with an alter before it.  Recently, Pope John Paul II joined the ranks of those declared Sainthood, and this altar, at the foot of his tomb, is currently one of the most visited sites in St. Peter's Basilica. 

There are also several past Popes entombed in glass caskets.  Pope John XXIII rests in this case.

Beneath this altar is said to be the burial place of the first apostle, Peter.

This is the work of Rafael, titled The Transfiguration of Christ, and was painted between 1516-1520.  Rafael died in 1520 and the painting was left unfinished.  It is housed above a tomb in the basilica.

The central dome over the altar was designed by Michelangelo.  However, he did not live to see its completion.  Nonetheless, it is a work like no other.

My visit to Vatican City was definitely the highlight of my time in Rome.  It brought tears to my eyes on several occasions, and I can now cross a very big item off my bucket list.  How will I ever top visiting the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Basilica?  In March, when I venture into Paris and London with 23 kids in tow, I am certainly going to try!
Till next time,

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