Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Vatican

After a great weekend of total normalcy (meaning no traveling for Josh or myself, nothing on the schedule, and then finally back to church!), I'm here to get back to recapping my European adventures. Today as I sit down to type this one up I realize that I'm only on day two of ten… so I may be blogging this stuff into October at the pace that I'm blogging here lately! Especially since I finally have many things swirling around in this noodle of mine after months and months of writer's block, so I probably need to get some of it out in between these posts before it all goes away. But back to day two…

After a VERY rock-solid night of sleep on the rock-slab that our Rome hotel called a bed, we got up, had breakfast, and headed to the Vatican. My mom had set us up with another tour guide for the Vatican, and I must say, she was fabulous! I was incredibly intrigued about the Vatican, and the entire concept still just fascinates me, but where she came in really handy was for the descriptions of all of the art. Oh my, there is art EVERYWHERE. Some of you might be thinking "duh," but I seriously did not realize that. The other wonderful thing about having a guided tour is that we got to skip the line to get into the walls of the Vatican, as well as the line to get into St. Peter's Cathedral. And people were in line for two hours or more! So, if you visit during high season, I'd say it's well worth it.

But anyway, I'm not even really sure if I would do any of the art photos justice as far as explanations go, so I won't bore you with the hundreds we took. The city is pretty well laid out so there is a definite flow of tourist traffic, and for the most part we were kind of herded through everything with a ton of other people. We started outside on a terrace and then went through a building to get to one of three courtyards (which used to be 2 courtyards until they build the library to separate one of them. The third courtyard is used as a parking lot). 

Recognize that chimney??

After the courtyard we went inside and walked through hallway upon hallway of art. There was a hall dedicated to Egyptian art and then one filled with pieces recovered from the manors of ancient Rome- many statues of people and several of Pagan Gods. The ceiling in this area was incredibly amazing to me… painted plaster that was done in a form that made it look three dimensional although the ceiling was completely flat. 

Then there was a hallway of ancient maps, and one of tapestries, which I found to be incredibly impressive! These areas also had incredible ceilings although they were not only painted, but also plated in gold.

Can you believe that this is a tapestry? I was amazed.

Beyond that we entered Rafael's rooms, with amazing murals on every ounce of spare wall space- Renaissance art at it's best. There was so much to see it was almost difficult to figure out where to start! These rooms are filled with works of the greatest artists who ever lived… and it was impossible to capture it in photos, so these will have to suffice!

Beyond that we made our way into the Sistine Chapel. There are no photos allowed in there, and there is supposed to be complete silence. I wish I could say that I was just completely overwhelmed with awe to be in there, but I was actually quite frustrated that so many people continued to talk even with the security guards frequently announcing "silencio" over a PA system. The ceiling is quite amazing (especially after our guide had told us about each painting and the progression of the work… how he tweaked his design and made everything bigger after seeing the first ones complete from the ground) and to know that he spent all that time on shaky scaffolding and how long it took to complete is just incredible.

From there we headed to St. Peter's Basilica. On this trip we saw many, many churches inside and out. I have also been to several in Mexico. In comparison, this one is MASSIVE. And spectacular. I do not think there is a comparison anywhere else in the world… and again, my pictures just fall flat. You'll just have to put it on your bucket list and go see it for yourself someday!

This large altar is one solid piece of bronze and only the Pope worships under there. And as a side note (and a pice of trivia that I did not know, but maybe you did), the bodies of the dead popes are treated in such a way (withe the appearance of being a wax figure) that they are on display 25 years after their deaths. I refrained from taking photos since I found it a bit morbid, but there were many people there taking photos and paying homage to them. We can expect the former pope's body to be added into the Basilica in about 23 years.

Another piece of trivia… this statue is now encased behind a glass door because a "tourist" came in and tried to destroy it. He made some significant damage before they could stop him and they had to restore it the best they could. IT's unfortunate because out of everything in the Vatican, I thought that this was by far the most beautiful and moving piece.

We were there the day before a holy festival (the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul), and so the pope's actual garments (which he would be wearing for the festival as well as on other special occasions) were on display. Our tour guide said that she had been giving tours for years and had never seen this happen.

We exited the Basilica into St. Peter's Square, which might have impressed me about as much as the cathedral did! I think I mentioned in my Rome post that I found the city to be a bit dirty, but the buildings and landscape and everything in the Vatican, to include the square, was so pristine and well-kept. There is a statue or Peter and Paul, but I found the one of Peter to be the most interesting. He's holding two keys, one silver and one gold (although you cannot tell that in a statue, just in paintings of the same thing) which signify Jesus handing over the keys to the church, past and present (on this rock I will build my church). I have never been to the Holy City, but just to know that I was standing on the ground where Peter was crucified and walking around a city where both Paul and Peter had themselves walked was incredibly humbling. It kind of blew my mind.

These are how the Romans do public drinking fountains… they are all over the place. But since this one was in the sVatican, we figured it must be holy water.


Peter - you can see the keys in the hand that is pointing

So to sum it up, the Vatican is pretty darn incredible and certainly worth seeing. I think our experience would have been better if it hadn't been in the peak of tourist season in 90-degree-heat (and a lot of it is not air conditioned, which was surprising due to all of the artifacts in there), but beyond that, it was an awesome day. Out of all of it though, here is what amazed me the most:

As I was walking through the Hall of Tapestries, we were surrounded by literally hundreds of people. There were people going through on their own, as well as several tour groups, with multiple tours starting ever fifteen minutes. I turned to look at something and a familiar face caught my eye. I randomly ran into someone I knew in the Vatican! How crazy is that??!! And not just someone that I know, but one of my mentors in ministry, a pastor on the ARC Lead Team who dreamt up ARC Women, something I have been involved with, Lori Champion. She and her family had ended a cruise in Rome and were heading back to Texas the next day. Only God can orchestrate something like that… nothing blew my mind more on this entire trip than that moment. We traveled halfway around the globe to bump into each other… in a place all about the church. Chew on that for moment. 

That afternoon we checked out of our hotel and boarded our floating home for the next week!  Next stop? Florence, ya'll (and you would only understand that reference if you have ever driven through Northern Kentucky). Bon voyage!

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