Published: July 15th 2009May 5th 2009
By 9:30 we were at the Railway station bound for the Vatican. By 10:00 we were in the vicinity of the Vatican. We saw the high walls of the Vatican & then followed the signs to the Vatican Museum entrance which would eventually take us into the Sistine Chapel.
The Vatican City is a city-state that came into existence in 1929. For Adults, the entrance to the museum cost 14 Euro. There are 54 galleries in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the very last gallery within the Museum - visitors need to proceed through the other 53 galleries before earning their reward with access to the Sistine. We first went through the Gallery of the Statues.
We noticed an interesting design on the floor while looking the statues. After that, we moved on to the Gallery of Tapestries. This gallery contains flemish tapestries from Brussels realized By Pieter van Aelst's school from drawings by Raphael's pupils. The tapestries were originally displayed in the Sistine Chapel in 1531, but have been in their current location since 1838.
As we walked through the Galleries there was art everywhere including the ceilings.
The Gallery of Maps takes its name from 40 maps frescoed on the walls, which represent the Italian regions at the time of Pope Gregory XIII.
The Sobieski Room derives its name from the large painting by the Polish painter Jean Matejko (1838-1893), which represents Polish King John III Sobieski’s victory over the Turks in Vienna in 1683.
The Hall of Constantine is the largest of the four Raphael Rooms. The other 3 rooms are the Room of Heliordus, the Room of the Segnatura & the Room of the Fire in the Borgo - all contain frescoes painted by Raphael & his workshop. The Hall of Constantine is dedicated to the victory of Christianity over paganism. Paintings below are Donation of Constantine & The Vision of the Cross.
The Room of Heliodorus was originally used for the private audiences of the Pope and was decorated by Raphael immediately after the Segnatura. The room's programme is political and aims at documenting, in different historical moments from the Old Testament to medieval history, the miraculous protection bestowed by God on the Church. Featured Paintings are: The Expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple, The Deliverance of St. Peter, The Meeting of Leo the Great & Attila & The Mass at Bolsena.
The Room of the Segnatura was the first to be decorated by Raphael's frescoes. It was the study housing the Library of Julius II. The artist's concept brings into harmony the spirits of Antiquity & Christianity. Some of the paintings include the Disputation of the Holy Sacrament, The School of Athens, The Parnassus & The Cardinal Virtues.
The Room of the Fire in the Borgo is named after a painting which depicts Pope Leo IV making the sign of the cross to extinguish a fire in the Borgo district of Rome. Featured paintings are the Fire in the Borgo, The Coronation of Charlemagne & The Battle of Ostia.
We passed through a number of Galleries on our way to the Sistine Chapel. Saw many statues (like the Thinker), paintings, wood carvings & stained glass.
The Sistine Chapel was built by Giovanni de'Dolci between 1475 & 1481 AD. The chapel was decorated by painters such as Botticelli & Il Ghirlandaio in the 15th century. In the 16th century, Michelangelo was called upon to paint all the frescoes on the chapel's vaulted ceiling.
We finally reached the Sistine Chapel around 11:45 am (taking about one & half hours from the entrance). There are signs in the chapel which disallow flash photography & video recording.
Some paintings include Temptaio Moisi Legis Scriptae Latoris (scenes from the life of Moses), Christ giving the keys to St. Peter & The Temptation of Christ.
We reached St. Peter's square around 12:40 am. The history of the Vatican as a papal residence dates from the 5th century after Emperor Constantine I built the basilica of St. Peter's. Saw Maderno's Fountain & then we had to queue up to go inside the Basilica.
We took a group photo outside the basilica & then went inside (hats off). St. Peter's has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world.
We saw St. Peter's Baldachin by Bernini-the tomb of St. Peter is underneath. In the basilica there are many statues & some paintings.
Outside the Basilica, we posed for pictures with the Swiss Guards.
After visting St. Peter's, we noticed the weather was becoming overcast, so we decided to have lunch (Pizzas). We eating, the rain came down quite heavy. Most of our party decided to go back to the Hotel - Joan & myself decided to continue on out tour. I had to buy a cheap umbrella from one of the street sellers that seem to magically appear when the rain came.
We made our way to the Castel Sant' Angelo, which is also known as the Mausoleum of Hadrian. Emperor Hadrian had it erected between 135 & 139 as a mausoleum for himself & his family. There is a statue of an Angel on top.
It was still pouring rain when we arrived & it seemed that some areas were not covered which would have made viweing messy, so we continued on over the Ponte Sant' Angelo which crosses the Tiber River.
We next saw Clemens XII Pont Church & had a look inside. Then we left headed for Piazza Navona, passing by an unusual fountain.
Piazza Navona is a city square. It follows the plan of an ancient Roman circus where Romans came to watch games. There are 3 fountains in the Piazza: Fountain of the Moor, Founatin of the Four Rivers & Fountain of Neptune.
The Pantheon is located in Piazza della Rotunda & it is the one of the best preserved of all Roman buildings. Emperor Hadrian built the 4th version between 118 and 125 AD. Earlier destroyed versions date back to 27 BC, AD 80 & AD 110. We arrived about 4:45 & went inside (no admission charge). The round opening of the Dome admits the only light into the building. The Pantheon is still used as a church.
There are many persons buried in the Pantheon including painters Raphael & Carracci, composer Corelli, architect Peruzzi & two kings of Italy: Vittorio Emanuele II & Umberto I & Umberto's queen, Margherita.
After the Pantheon, we walked to Largo di Torre Argentina, a square that hosts four Roman Temples & the remains of Pompey's Theatre. We arrived there by 5:20 pm, the rain had finally stopped & the sky was clearing. This is the place where Julius Caesar met his assassins & was stabbed to death on the Ides of March (15th), 44 BC. Today the area is known for the cats the lie around in the tall grass.
We then made our way to the Piazza Venezia. There is a huge monument to Victor Emmanuel II in the piazza, built in 1911 of white marble. It is the largest outdoor altar in Europe, containing Italy's Tomb of the unknown soldier. It is this piazza where Mussolini made his speeches.
Just beyond the piazza is Trajan's Column. The Column was erected AD 106 to 113 in honour of the Emperor Trajan. We passed by the Trajan Forum. The forum is chronologically the last forum of Imperial Rome. The Forum was inaugurated in 112.
It was about 6:15 pm when we finished looking at the Forum, feeling tired after a full day of walking we headed back to the Colosseum Railway station to return back to the Hotel.