Vatican City is a walled enclave that was established in 1929 as a sovereign city-state within the city of Rome, Italy. The Vatican is a separate entity from the Papal States that encompassed a large part of central Italy from 756 to 1870. Vatican City is an ecclesiastical state ruled by the Pope. The building where the Pope lives, adjacent to St. Peter's basilica, is known as the Apostolic Palace. The basilica and the museums of the Vatican attract a large number of visitors and religious pilgrims.
The Basilica of St. Peter is a large church in the Renaissance style that has the tallest, and one of the largest domes in the world, with a diameter of 42 meters (137.7 feet). The burial place of St. Peter is said to be below the main altar of the basilica. The foundation for the basilica was started in 1505. The dome was finished in 1590, and the façade was completed in 1615. The plans were revised multiple times during the construction. The finished work has been criticized because the façade blocks the view of the dome at close range. The cupola can only be seen from a distance.
Visitors to Saint Peter's Basilica must obey a dress code. People wearing shorts, halter tops, tank tops and low-cut dresses are stopped at the entrance and are not admitted. Men are asked to take off their hats inside the church buildings. Wear proper attire. You do not want to be turned back after waiting in line for a long time just because you are not dressed properly. In addition, visitors must go through a security screening similar to that of the airports. Purses are X-rayed and all persons must go through metal detectors.
Thousands of people gather on St. Peter's Square at noon on Sunday to receive a blessing from the Pope.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums can be the highlight of a trip to Rome. The museums are not restricted to religious displays. There are extensive collections of Roman art, as well as examples of modern art by Matisse, Chagall and Dali, among others. The following photographs provide a small glimpse of what you will find inside.
If you do not go with an organized tour, you may have to stand in line for an hour just to get to the ticket office. You can avoid the line by buying tickets from the Vatican Museum web site for an additional charge.
An effort has been made to facilitate the passage of a large number of visitors through the museum. Spiral ramps allow a constant stream of visitors to climb to upper levels or descend to lower levels. The older buildings of the museum only have stairways.
The Vatican Museum courtyard features a polished bronze "Sphere within Sphere" sculpture.
A tour of the Vatican Museum provides sensory overload. Every corner of the museum has something of interest. Every wall displays dozens of beautiful objects. Moving at a steady pace through all the exhibits requires about three to four hours, but this is much too fast to appreciate all the details of the objects. If you keep your eyes on the walls, you will be missing the details in the ceilings which are covered with plaster reliefs, frescos and paintings that are just as interesting as what is displayed on the walls. Great artists and artisans must have spent thousands of hours decorating these halls. It is impossible to walk along with the crowds of people and pay proper attention to every detail. Unfortunately, life is finite and we must hurry along with our mouth agape in astonishment as we discover something new and beautiful at every step. You will need to look at the floor too because the floors are covered with marble arranged in geometric patterns or mosaics with interesting designs.
The Sistine Chapel
One of the last stops of a Vatican Museum tour is the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV in 1475 to be used as the pope's chapel and the site of papal elections. The ceiling of the chapel was decorated by Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) with frescoes of scenes from Genesis and a wall depicting The Last Judgment. One of the most powerful and enduring images is that of God creating Adam in his own image. God extends his right hand toward a reclining naked Adam who in turn extends his left hand toward God.
Photography is not allowed in the chapel, but the Vatican provides a virtual reality tour of the Sistine Chapel.