Monday, November 29, 2010

BCers Visit Italy, Switzerland & France; Pt 8: Spirit Of Opulence & Art At The Vatican

MY WORLD LINGERS on thoughts of our recent trip to Vatican City where the body of pope Paul XXIII resposes at St. Peter’s Basilica. His waxy head donned in a red cap with white fringe made me think of Saint Nicholas. A fitting resemblance perhaps since he is said to have been very good and kind.

It is surreal to walk where great artists created their finest works and popes of days gone by rest within concrete walls or (in some cases) behind glass at the Vatican. We were glad to first stop at the Roof Garden Restaurant on site before exploring the enormous enclave of fine art wrapped in layers of history.

Getting from the entrance of the Vatican museum to the Basilica is a fascinating journey.

Along the way we saw a kitchen-table-sized golden replica (encased in glass) of what might be St. Peter’s Basilica.

There is no end to the steps one must trek or the wealth of historical artifacts one will discover in the enormous rooms and buildings.

We saw stunning religious icons embedded in stained glass along the way.

Vases were not simply designed as containers. They were lovely works of art.

Some floors were intricately tiled with great devotion.

If walls could talk, these would certainly have remarkable stories to tell.

This humble chair stood in the corner of a hallway to St. Peter’s Basilica.

A lovely old bell sat in silence as people walked by.

Scarcely seen by the public, there must be private elevators for aging popes who would have difficulty with the exhaustive hallways and stairs such as those leading to St. Peter's Square.

Although lineups were enormous and the buildings packed with visitors, the magnitude of the square at the Vatican transformed people into ants.

I suppose this is how the pope sees it when addressing the crowd.

The Carlo Fontana looked refreshing but unquenchable at the square.

The uniformed Swiss Guards reminded me of the biblical Joseph and his “coat of many colors”. However, the blue and orange-yellow hues represent the once politically powerful Medici family of the 13th and 14th centuries. Red represents the primary colour of Swiss states.

There is always upkeep to be done around statue-laden St. Peter’s Square.

Behind the pillars are the papal apartments where the pope resides. Although there are over 1000 rooms in the building, his living quarters are believed to consist of ten.

I captured a pale photograph of Michelangelo’s "Pieta" (meaning both piety and pity). The marble sculpture of Mary and Jesus was created as a funeral monument for a cardinal in 1499. It was moved to the Basilica in the 18th century where it now stands at the entrance.

There were angelic statues prettily positioned nearby.

Even the drains (pictured above by my husband's foot) were pretty. There were awestruck moments of discovery from floor to ceiling. Our Vatican experience concluded with a visit to the Sistine Chapel where no picture-taking was permitted. We stood shoulder to shoulder with hundreds of people. Our necks craned upward to view Michelangelo’s reluctantly painted ceiling depicting biblical tales. The physically challenging work began in 1508 and took some four years to complete. It is overwhelmingly large, beautiful and difficult to appreciate with the murmuring crowd that needed to be shushed constantly by priests and staff. It was easier to marvel at earthly opulence and artistry than it was to quietly ponder spiritual matters at the Vatican.

Explorers can find more sites from around the globe at My World.


  1. Overwhelming! I can't even imagine such a place, but it must be real if you photographed it.
    Super photos, Penelope. But I have to ask, how was your foot after all that?
    -- K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  2. A lovely and interesting post with nice photos from a gorgeous place. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Oh, there is sanctity and beauty just walking around this area!

    Elegant and pristine artwork, especially the ceilings.

  4. What an incredible post, Penelope! And your photos are awesome! I've always wanted to visit there, but your captures are the very next best thing to being there! Really breathtaking! Thank you so much for the tour and the information. Fascinating! Hope you have a great week!


  5. Superbly photographed tour of the Vatican. I am glad you fortified yourselves in advance as it really is exhausting both physically and mentally to take in so much grandeur and art in a short space of time.

    Luckily we were able to view Michelangelo's ceiling while lying on our backs since there were few people there.

  6. Thank you for taking us on the tour. Wonderful pics! :-))

  7. It's been a couple of decades since I've been there, but your photos bring it back. Although I didn't see as much as you did. Great photos!

  8. What a fantastic tour. These are all great shots. I love the tile floors. Intricate tile work like that always catches my eye.

  9. I was there too last April, what a GRAND place! Thanks for all these shots. :)

  10. So much art, so much beauty, so much faith. Beautiful and exotic. Thanks for sharing the view!

  11. Terrific shots. The museum is beautiful. The items on display and paintings are beautiful.

  12. thanks for the amazing tour of the holy city. what's great about visiting blogs in My World is that I always learn something new about the place. places that I could only dream of coming. thanks for sharing your world with us.

  13. Opulence, indeed. That was such a rich and many formed journey that I don´t know what to praise more. Even the small table-sized replicas were so full of everything that it was too much.

  14. Thanks for visiting, Penelope. Love your photos—feel like I'm right back there. (Except it was pouring down rain the day we were at the Vatican. Even the Swiss Guards were encased in dull rain gear!)

  15. We visited the Vatican several years ago. I remember distinctly how overwhelmed I was. You can't describe it, in this case a picture is a necessity to convey the sheer opulence.

    You present a great photo tour.


  16. Where ever one looks there is art, a feast for eyes and mind. Pomp and ceremony has left a legacy of no repeatable classic art. One could spend a lifetime in Europe, or the whole world to go from country to country to admire the treasures. I think of all the artists in every field who have been responsible to produce such beauty.

  17. the only thing which bothers me seeing all this artwork and real treasures, that it was built in the name of Jesus who was a humble man ! Imagine with all that money they could have fed the whole poor world or still could do ! the popes robes alone cost a fortune. Why doesn't he help homeless children.
    The Vatican should become an official "Museum" and not a religious place. It's a shame for those who are starving.

  18. What a magnificent place to visit. It is a fantastic treasure that's for sure. I am in awe of the beauty before my eyes.
    Thanks for sharing your wonderful journey.

  19. great captures! so nice to see those familiar places!

  20. Vatican is one of the many places in my list. Beautiful pictures and thank you for sharing


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