I would love to show a few photos of the Sistine Chapel, it is beyond describing. But no photos are allowed, although people clicked them off here and there (to be yelled at by the guards).


It is as amazing as you would expect it to be.

We finished out the tour with a walk into St. Peter’s, which is spectacular. Had we not been so tired (long walk), we would have headed up to the top.



A Swiss Guard, trained to protect the church and the Pope.


What I didn’t realize, that the Vatican has it’s own postal system ….


As you walk out of St. Peters, you enter Piazza San Pietro (St. Peter’s Square). In the center is an obelisk that was moved to Rome from Egypt AD 87 (dates back to 13th century BC).


And if you stand in one specific spot (marked), all of the columns line up perfectly under Alexander’s gate (they are four deep).



And with that, our trip to Rome came to and end. And we only saw a small fraction of the city …. Off to Florence.


As you would expect, the tapestries are spectacular. The one I found most amazing was this one, of Jesus exiting the tomb. No matter which way you stand, Jesus looks right at you.

From the left ..

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From the right … (sorry, blurry) ..

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Like everyone, the ultimate goal is the Sistine Chapel. Before you get there you go through the ‘Gallery of Maps’, which displays 40 maps of the Church’s territories by 16th century cartographer Ignazio Danti:

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The map of Venice was one of my favorites:

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It is then through Raphael’s Rooms (private apartments that were redecorated by Raphael thanks to Pope Julius II’s sponsorship), which contains one of his more famous pieces of work, The School of Athens, which contains the most famous of philosophers (And it is suggested that Raphael painted himself into the work (on the right – head down, painting).

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And Salvador Dali’s painting ‘The Trinity’ which is a beautiful piece. I wonder about the inspiration for this painting. When we walked through his exhibit in London, he did not strike me as the ‘spiritual’ sort.

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Next, the Sistine Chapel ….


Throughout the Vatican you find ornate monuments – paintings and pieces of work dedicated to remembering various popes. This doorway remembering Pope Leo XIII is quite lavish:

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As an aside, it was Leo XIII who …

‘….Church positions on relations with temporal authorities, and, in the 1891 encyclical Rerum Novarum addressed for the first time social inequality and social justice issues with Papal authority, focusing on the rights and duties of capital and labour. He was greatly influenced by Wilhelm Emmanuel von Ketteler, a German bishop who openly propagated siding with the suffering working classes in his book Die Arbeiterfrage und das Chistentum. Since Leo XIII, Papal teachings expand on the right and obligation of workers and the limitations of private property’.

Pope John Paul II wasn’t very interested in being one of the Vatican’s prominent displays:

The Testament of Pope John Paul II published on 7 April[140] revealed that the pontiff contemplated being buried in his native Poland but left the final decision to The College of Cardinals, which in passing, preferred burial beneath St. Peter’s Basilica, honouring the pontiff’s request to be placed “in bare earth”.

In St. Peter’s is the entombed body of St. Pius X. Via.

Below the altar, is a crystal coffin containing the body of St. Pius X (1904-1914), “pauper et dives, mitis et humilis corde”. The body is dressed in pontifical robes, while the face and hands are covered with silver. The world greatly admired his wisdom and firm government. He helped restore Christian life by issuing wise laws on the religious education of children, youths and adults. His catechism gives clear answers to many religious questions. He allowed young children to take Communion, promoted the practice of daily communion as a source of virtue and holiness, he reformed the liturgy in the Missal and Breviary as well as sacred music and Gregorian chant. He fought against and condemned modernism which is still the cause of many evils. He was, however, unable to convince the reigning monarch and heads of state of his era to avoid the conflict that would shed blood throughout Europe for four long years.

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It made me think.


The Vatican contains every type of art imaginable. On the floors of the ‘Round Room’ are Roman mosaics from bath houses like the one below from the Baths of Otricoli. It is a huge mosaic and you walk around the edges (feels wrong to walk on any part of it).

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As you walk, you are bombarded by beauty. Look to the side and you see priceless works of art. Look above you and you see either jaw dropping architecture or a stunning roof.

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Down one hall are a host of baby sculptures, a way for parents to remember children who passed on too early in life.

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Why these parents wanted their son remembered wrestling a goose is beyond me, there must be a story there.

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So much to see.


Our trip to Egypt taught us one thing – private tours are worth the money. When you travel all that way and spend the money, being part of a tour of 50 is not great – it is not interactive and your are bound by the whims of the tour (plus it is a pain to see in a crowd).  A friend in the UK recommended Hanna & Mike’s tours to us while in Rome. Unfortunately, Hanna was not available for the first couple days but was able to take us through our big 3rd day in Rome – the Vatican.

If you are going to Rome, we would HIGHLY recommend Hanna, she did an amazing job and made the day spectacular.

As you can imagine, the Vatican is awe inspiring. You have seen it in movies (I just watched Demons & Angels and it was neat to see so many of the places we had just been) and of course, it has been around for a long time. I was very excited about the day and a bit worried about the boys (They are the most amazing of travellers, but at the end of the 2 years, they were getting a little ACO (all churched out))

Upon reflection, I would say that there are a few things that I was left thinking about from our tour of the Vatican:

  • The size of the collection: Inside the walls are hundreds of thousands of pieces of human history. I would imagine there are two points of view, some who are happy that the church acquired all of these pieces as they will protect our human history and many who would have the same view that the Egyptians had of the UK displaying the Rosetta Stone … ‘give it back’. Hanna did make a very valid point, had the church not stepped in, many of these pieces would have been lost.
  • Inside the church walls are endless pieces of pagan work. Considering the Bible’s stance on idols, one has to wonder how the retention of these idols within church walls is rationalized against biblical ideology.
  • I was left with the thought that all of these things that we enjoy today came at a great human cost.

The entrance to the Vatican Museum is exactly what you would expect, spectacular. It is also built into a huge wall, giving the appearance of a fortress.

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A great example of ‘saving’ can be found upon entering the Cortile del Belvedere or the Courtyard of the Belvedere, an ancient headstone.

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Donato Bramante‘s Cortile del Belvedere, the Courtyard of the Belvedere, designed from 1506 onwards, was a major project of the High Renaissance at Rome, reverberating in its details in courtyards, formalized piazzas and garden plans throughout Western Europe for centuries. Bramante himself never saw it completed, and within the century it had been irretrievably altered by a bisecting wall.

It was also at one point the home of the papal menagerie. It was on the lower portion of the courtyard that Pope Leo X would parade his prized elephant Hanno for adoring crowds to see. Because of the pachyderm’s glorious history he was buried in the Cortile del Belvedere. [1]

Yes, that is right, a Pope had an elephant (insert reference to ‘great human cost’, I am sure he did not pay for it himself). In the courtyard is a very cool piece that I simply cannot find additional detail on, ‘Sphere inside Sphere’ by Arnaldo Pomodoro.

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Sitting at the end of the courtyard is the giant pinecone …

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Sixtus V spoiled the unity of the Cortile (1585-90) by erecting the wing for the Vatican Library, which occupies the former middle terrace and bisects the space. James Ackerman has suggested that the move was a conscious one, designed to screen the secular, even pagan nature of the Cortile and the collection of sculptures that Pope Adrian VI had referred to as “idols“. Today the lowest terrace is still called the Cortile del Belvedere, but the separated upper terrace is called the Cortile della Pigna because of the colossal Roman bronze pinecone, once a fountain, that occupies the center of the niche.

You exit the courtyard into a long hallway filled with statues. Many of these statues were originally bronze but were recycled to make war implements. There are only a few bronze statues in the entire Vatican.

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The detail is unbelievable. They are beautiful sculptures, in this case an Emperor.

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Many of the sculptures are the tops of caskets, meant to immortalize the person entombed. In this case, a woman.

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Or a favourite pet. I doubt that they named him ‘Fido’. Looks more like a ‘Hercules’.

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One room is completely filled with sculptures of animals or of animals being hunted. Spectacular. The sheer number of pieces is astounding, each with a rich history that may or may not be known.

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Identified as one of the oldest pieces in the Vatican. (83BC)

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And a restored bust of the god Jupiter.

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And finally one of the few Bronze statues that still exists, of Hercules.

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One thing you will note is the fig leaf (In Angels and Demons, Tom Hanks’ character makes a wise crack about it). The fig leafs were put up to either cover the genitalia or to cover those sculptures that were castrated by various Popes. Via:

In the eruption of Counter Reformation fanaticism following the Renaissance, the edict of the Council of Trent forbade the depiction of genitals, buttocks and breasts in church art. In 1557, the fig leaves were instituted by the bull of Pope Paul IV. Most of the fig leaves that we see were put in place on the personal initiative of Pope Innocent X (1644-1655) who, for reasons of his own, preferred metal leaves to the plaster ones. This Pope, to his credit, spared most of the art in the Vatican. By 1857, Pope Pius IX discovered that these few remaining statues constituted grave threat to the faithful and destroyed most of them; the fig leaves were promptly added by his successor to stop the iconoclasm. All in all, the campaign raged for 450 years.

Fascinating place.