Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Papal overload!!!

Today, David, Lyn and I visited St. Peter’s Cathedral and the Vatican museum.  We started the journey with a Metro ride in a VERY crowded train, with David just barely squeezing in before the door closed.  Of course, I figured out that at our stop we had to get out on the OTHER side of the train, so we slowly made our way across the aisle at each stop.  When we left the station, we were mobbed with people wanting to offer us tours of St. Peter’s and the Vatican….my question is why would I come to Italy to be taken on a tour led by an Australian?????

We followed the crowds to the church and were enthralled with our first views of St. Peter’s square.  It is gorgeous how the “arms” of the courtyard outstretch from the church itself.  There were a number of people already there, but it wasn’t too crowded.  

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We got into a line to have our bags checked….terrorists  has a LOT to answer for!!!  I was wearing a spaghetti strap shirt and had taken a lightweight scarf to put over my shoulders.  One of the attendants told me that my back had to be covered as well and tugged the scarf down to a proper position!!

When you enter the Cathedral, you are overwhelmed with the opulence and grandeur of the building. 

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The main altar is a huge, many storied structure created by Bernini and it sits directly on top of St. Peter’s remains which are in the crypt below ground.  There are beautiful statues and other art all over the church. 

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The first piece that you pass is Michelangelo’s Pieta…..remember that a Pieta is a sculpture that shows Mary holding the crucified Jesus in her arms.  In this particular piece, Mary is sitting in a chair and holding Jesus across her lap.  Unfortunately, back in the 1970’s a man attacked the Pieta with a hammer and damaged a portion of it.  So, the sculpture now sits inside a glass box.   It is truly a wonderful sculpture and it is a shame that you cant approach it closer.

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As we looked at most of the walls, we assumed that the paintings were frescos or paintings but on closer inspection we realized that many of them were mosaic pieces made from thousands of tiny tiles.  As I said earlier in this blog, it is amazing to see the colors and shadings that the artist could achieve with these tiles!!!  This next photo is a mosaic!!!

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As we were looking at one nave, Lyn and I were trying to figure out what one particular piece of art was.  An older gentleman approached us and asked if we spoke English. When we said yes, he proceeded to tell us ALL about the church in VERY broken English……it was probably 95% Italian with a few English words thrown in!!  It was clear that he was so grateful to be able to worship in this beautiful church and he told us that he comes there every day for the 10:00 Mass.  He also told us that he was from Czechoslovakia and that it was a wonderful blessing that he could live in Italy.    His deep blue eyes spoke volumes about his love of God…..it is a moment that Lyn and I will both remember!!!!   He would probably still be talking to us now except that the bell rang signifying the start of the Mass and he hastily said good-bye and moved into the chapel.

Picture 046 We came across one statue of Peter and watched in amazement as EVERYONE walked up to it, grabbed the right big toe and smiled for the camera……a few even kissed it.  The funny thing was that it had been rubbed so many times that the definition was gone and it is just a marble blob!!!!

_9067986 The ceilings were also fantastic and not just the main cupola but the side ones as well…..

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We left St. Peter’s Cathedral and joined the line to climb up to the roof and up onto the cupola rim.  After much deliberation we decided to pay two extra Euros to ride the elevator  to the roof  level.  At this point you end up inside the church at the base of the cupola.  It was fun to be so close to the top of the church….

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The views from the outer roof  level were great too…….

_9068113 and then there were 320 more steps to get to the rim of the cupola.  The dome is actually made in two parts….an inner one that is seen from the inside of the church and the outer one that reaches to the sky.    The steps run between the domes and there are places where both walls slope to the right as you walk.  It was a bit disconcerting!!!!  This was the final push to the top…..

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The views from the top were wonderful although it was very crowded and pretty hot…..

_9068100 _9068092 _9068099The climb down was much easier but dumped us back into the Church again.  We loved these guards….they really didn’t want their photo taken….

_9068124I know that they look sort of poufy, but  I bet that they are the equivalent of Marines!!!!

We found this wonderful fountain that had Cold, Cold water….we all filled up our bottles….

_9068115We joined another line that took us down into the Grottoes of the church.   This is the area where many (maybe all) of the previous Pope’s have been buried.  There was one little boy who walked up to each crypt, touched it and then crossed himself.  There was a large crowd around the Crypt for John Paul who died in 2005.  St. Peter’s crypt was behind bars and not accessible to the public but there were offerings in front of it.

OK….enough for now…I will finish this up after a while….

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