Today was the day I had been waiting for. We had purchased a tour of the Vatican Museums and St. Peter’s Basilica online before coming to Rome. The Skip the Line tour is the only way to go. We took the Metro to the area near the Vatican to meet our tour. The Metro turned out to be very much like the Tube in London. We call them subways in our country.
We met our tour guide Frederica and began the tour promptly at 9 am. (The hundreds of folks standing in line did not look too happy with us.) After going through the metal detector, we started the tour which was unbelievable. Our tour took us on the Long March through the Candelabra Room, the Tapestries and the Maps rooms into the area where you find works by Raphael, many of which were housed in the old papal apartments. There is a room dedicated to Constantine with works that celebrate the passing of Rome from the pagans to the Christians. The Raphael Rooms include a large painting of King Jan Sobieski liberating Vienna, the Immaculate Conception Room, and then you are headed toward the Sistine Chapel. I have no pictures of it, because you are not allowed to take them. In order to enter, you must have your shoulders and knees covered, and the security takes it very seriously.
Michelangelo has captured the the story of man on that ceiling. It is really unbelievable. From the creation of man to the Last Judgement, Michaelangelo painted the frescos alone in the room.
Of course, my favorite part was when the tour guide reminded us that this room is where the cardinals elect at new pope. We saw the door that the pope goes through to the balcony after choosing one of the three vestments hanging in the “Crying Room” (Small, Medium or Large) to put on before being revealed to the people. She showed us where the white smoke is emitted.
From there, we made our way to St. Peter’s Basilica, the cornerstone of the Roman Catholic Church. We could hear a choir singing in the basilica as we were walking through. There we saw the Pieta, Michelangelo’s first major work. We walked past the tomb of Blessed John Paul II, and my heart nearly stopped from the sheer knowledge of where we were. The Main Altar was magnificently adorned and underneath it are the bones of our first pope, St. Peter. Frederica reminded us of the story where Jesus told Peter “upon this rock I build my church. The early Christians built their church on top of the bones of St. Peter (the Rock). That simple sentence really blew me away.
After our tour ended, we took in lunch at a restaurant recommended to us by our favorite desk clerk, Alessio. I had my first carbonara there, which was delicious. We had truly planned to go back to St. John Lateran to find the Holy Stairs, but were not able to as Roma had other plans. It rained heavily for the rest of the day. We waited for our Hop on Hop off bus because we still had today to use it. The only place we could sit was up top. After a miserably rainy ride across the city, we were in no mood to walk from the Colosseum stop back to St. John’s so we stayed on until we got back to the Spanish Steps, which is close to our hotel. I have climbed those 139 steps every day since we got here. Richard counted over 16,000 steps yesterday and today has 12,000 or so today. Since I am that much shorter than him, you can add probably 25% more to that for my steps.
Tomorrow we say Arrividerci to Rome and head to Firenze on the train. I did not see the Holy Stairs this time, thanks to the rain both days. I figure that means I’m coming back again...
La Pieta by Michelangelo
The tomb of our Holy Father, Blessed John Paul II
The Main Altar of St. Peter's- Underneath this altar lie the bones of St. Peter the Apostle.
End of the Tour with Frederica
Leave is to us Catholics to build the largest church in the world in the smallest country in the world.