Inside Vatican City, after seeing the immense St. Peter’s Basilica, we exited the church onto St. Peter’s Square again. We were right outside the entrance into the Pope’s private quarters. Naturally, we were not allowed in thanks to these Swiss guards.
There was still plenty left to see however. The rest of the Vatican complex consists of the Borgia Tower, the Apostolic Palace, the Vatican City Museums and, most notably, the Sistine Chapel. The way into the Sistine Chapel is through a labyrinth of museums and galleries that eventually take you into the chapel. The museums host a vast collection of Roman artifacts and gifts to the pope over the centuries. Egyptian statues stand atop Roman mosaics and guard over the Greek artifacts.
I laughed at a couple of female goddesses whose statues had suffered some damage. The staffs they once held in their hands were now small stubs. In fact, they almost looked like cell phones. Their poses made it look like they were trying to take their own photo. And you thought selfies were a modern thing.
Naturally, in nearly every room, all of the ceilings were most ornately painted and decorated.
International sculptors and painters were represented in another gallery. My favourite was one by Salvadore Dali, an artist I’m not usually particularly fond of. But there were a couple of nice works by him in this gallery that were much more to my liking. Naturally, all of the artwork had a religious motif or theme to them, but Dali’s angels were a lot less catholic-seeming than the sculptures of crucified martyrs.
The room of maps fascinated me more than any other of the galleries. Maps tell a good deal about the ideas and conceptions of their creators, and also of the naval technology at the time. Some countries were accurately depicted, while others were fairly off. Which city was in the centre often denoted a perceived importance, usually biased by the map’s country of origin. This practice still exists today, with importance now being placed at the top left corner. Western maps place North America in the top left corner, while Australian maps are “upside down” with Australia at the upper left. Russia is also sure to never split themselves up across two sides of the map the way some other maps do. It was interesting to see borders change and topography sophisticate itself across the centuries.
Among all the other galleries, the Sistine Chapel was actually quite tricky to locate in the maze of hallways and passages. There were dead ends, stairways that didn’t lead to all the floors and inner courtyards abound. There were also some windows along the way with great views of Rome and Italy beyond. We found the chapel eventually, and although much smaller than I pictured in my mind, the trouble we went through to find it was completely worth it.
The most famous artwork of the Sistine Chapel is The Creation of Adam by Michelangelo. I managed to get a wonderful photo of the ceiling. 10 minutes later I heard a guard telling off someone else for taking photos, so I consider myself lucky. It was the only photo I took inside the chapel, and it was the most beautiful one from my visit in the Vatican City.
Although I am not religious by any stretch, the Vatican and its Sistine Chapel are a splendor in history and architecture. The museums are full of beautiful artifacts that were given to the pope from around the world in hope of god’s favour. You can almost visit the world in one tiny city, or at least the catholic world. The Sistine Chapel is a marvel of famous Italian painters, known around the world for their ornate style and romantic depictions. I had seen the Michelangelo painting for years when I was younger, as my Italian stepmom had a copy of it framed on the wall. Seeing it in person, it was not an isolated piece, but integrated into a colossal piece that encompassed you, covering the walls, the ceilings, and everywhere you looked. You don’t need to be catholic in order to appreciate the beauty of the Vatican and its Sistine Chapel.