Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Adventures in Vatican City State

So when in must visit the smallest country in the world, so off to the Vatican we went (it helped that the hotel shuttle dropped us off right outside the walls). Given we were on vacation mode, we didn't get as early of a start as we would have liked...oh well. The shuttle dropped us off and we walked along the mostly brick wall to St. Peter's Square. There was this stretch that look liked some books on a shelf (possibly a gate of some sort).

The night before, we had pre-purchased our tickets online for the Vatican Museum and we had an entry time of 2pm. We arrived to the square around 11, the line to get in to St. Peter's Basilica was super long (as in wrapped all the way around the perimeter of the square) we opted to piddle around the square and grab some lunch before heading the museum.

St. Peter's Basilica...the largest church in the world.

Cuddling with the kids.

Daddy's turn (I think the kids are tired of photos)....

Statue of St. Peter (he is holding the key to heaven).

Around the top of St. Peter's Square are 140 life-size statues of different saints.

I have tried to find to a map/guide of the identify of the individual statues. I think this might be St. Francis of Assisi (I went to the elementary school of his 'sister' saint....St. Clare of Assisi, I did not find her).

In the center of the square is the Egyptian Obelisk. There are four lions at the base of the obelisk (copper colored). According the wikipedia, the obelisk was built in around 2400 BC and has been moved three times. It was moved from Egypt to Rome in 37AD.

We got to watch the changing of the guard at one of the entrances. The guards are called the Pontifical Swiss Guards.

Their uniforms are.....interesting....and quite colorful.

After lunch we headed to the Vatican Museum. Pre-purchasing our tickets online was the best decision. We got to by-pass the insanely long line as well as avoid the aggressive tour guide of both worlds. We started off in Pigna Courtyard. The Sphere Within Sphere sculpture by Italian sculptor Arnaldo Pomodoro is in the center of the courtyard.

A tour guide from a group stepped over the chain around the outside and walked up to the sphere and pushed it. The sphere will then rotate. Pretty interesting.

There were a number of statues and sculptures around the perimeter of the courtyard as well.

Caesar Augustus Statue.

Egyptian Lion Statue.

I am not sure of the exact name of this fountain (searches on the internet calls it the 'face fountain in Vatican'). You can see this image kid free here.

Above the face fountain is the Fontana della Pigna, this statue originally stood in the Pantheon and water used to spout out the top (it was moved to the Vatican in 1608). The fountain was made of bronze in the 1st or 2nd century and is 4 meters tall (according to the Vatican webpage).

We then entered the museum. There was a hall of real old ancient Roman statues (my lack of love of history is about to There were lots of statues with penises.....that made Mr. Tween I liked to point them out even more....muwhahahaha.....

A lot of the museum was only lit by natural light coming in through windows, it was also very we did a lot of 'looking at old stuff while trying to not get separated'. Tour groups were especially annoying in shoving and cutting you off to stay with their guide.....I'm sorry my sick child is sleeping in her stroller and in your way, but please don't step on her. We did take a few flash-free pictures of the ceilings along the way.

Some sort of Octagonal Ceiling painting.

The colors were surprisingly bright and vivid. When we finally made it to the Sistine Chapel I was amazed at how bright the colors were.

Ceiling in the gallery of maps.

In the gallery of maps, we found a map of Italy with mermaids in the Mediterranean Sea!

Another ceiling (thought of my bestie who loves the little cherub angels).

When we made it to the Sistine Chapel, no photography (or videography) is allowed. We constantly got shushed and told to put phones and cameras away. Clarissa woke up and admired the work. Mason was excited to see the 'creation of Adam' portion. He had recognized the image.

Afterwards we went out and wandered the gardens a bit. We refilled our water bottles at this lovely lady's fountain.

After hitting the gift shop (must get a rosary for the kids to be blessed by Pope), we headed to check the line to get into the Basilica...lucky for us, the line was relatively short now. Richard went and got some snacks while the kids and I creeped up in the line. We made it past the security and had to check the stroller before heading into St. Peter's Basilica.

Michelangelo's sculpture of Mary holding Jesus.

Pope John Paul II's grave.

Richard's favorite piece of artwork in Rome. St. Peter's Baldachin, a large bronze canopy said to mark the location of St. Peter's tomb below it. It was designed by Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini and completed in 1634.

One of the domes in St. Peter's.

You really can't get a feel of just how ginormous the Church is, but trust me it is huge! We also only saw a fraction of it. In Clarissa's not feeling wellness, Richard and I took turns carrying her and 35 lbs gets heavy after a while. After leaving the basilica, we headed back to the hotel.

Our walk to the shuttle every evening, along the Tevere River.

On Sunday before we flew out, we headed back to St. Peter's Square. When the Pope is in town, he will open his apartment window and do a blessing to all who come. We got to the square a little after 10. It did not really start to get crowded until around 11. We found a decent spot and set up camp while we waited for the Pope. He was conducting Mass in the Basilica and it was projected on some large screens inside the square. So while I didn't understand anything we could see Pope Francis.

Here's a little video clip of the mass. He was talking about the Armenia Genocide of WWI.

It was a bright and sunny day we were waiting, but given it was barely spring it was not unbearable hot or a pretty good day to wait.

No, we didn't break down and buy a selfie stick from one of the hundreds of vendors. So two bottles of water and one can of Pringles later (I don't see how the kids could eat sour cream and onion chips that early in the day), the Pope emerged in his window.

Where you ask? Just to the left of Mason's finger.....

Here, I'll zoom in as Pope Francis does his 'rock star' wave to the crowd. 

It really felt like we were at a concert. Thousands of people cheering. It was pretty cool, after his blessing Pope Francis did little shout outs to large groups with in the crowd (those with banners or flags in particular). While I didn't understand any of the Italian he spoke, you would hear the group he recognized all cheer afterwards.

Here's a shot of the crowd projected on the screen (sorry for the head in the shot, but it was crowded).

The Pope read the Regina Coeli as oppose to the normal blessing (since it was after Easter but before Pentecost). We brought Mason & Clarissa's new rosaries to be blessed and a couple of our loyal readers may end up receiving a blessed trinket when we are stateside this summer. Those all nicely fit into our backpack. We were quite impressed by the group that brought a giant (as in at least 4 feet tall and 3 feet wide) painting of Jesus to be blessed!

So afterwards, we returned to the hotel to check out (total perk of being an IHG platinum member....2 pm check out!), grabbed a snack and then headed to the airport to fly home. Vatican City houses so many ancient and religious artifacts and I really don't feel we were able to take them all in. Maybe sometime if we are posted in western Europe, we can plan a trip back to Rome/Vatican and really take our time and learn about what we are seeing (maybe during the slow season). If the kids are older, I would probably opt to get the audio guide because there were a lot of times I couldn't read the sign and didn't know what I was looking at. All in all it was a great trip, Mason greatly appreciated the availability of pasta and pizza and had both everyday we were there!

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