My Summer’ish European Experience: Vatican City

By Liso Donaldson    25-Aug-2013 21:04 UTC+02:00

Vatican-CityVatican City, officially Vatican City State, is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome. It has a population of around 840. This makes Vatican City the smallest internationally recognized independent state in the world.

With 5 years at a Roman Catholic high school under my belt,my love and appreciation for the rich history which is Catholicism was in full force and I was beyond excited for my day in the city, home to the largest catholic following.Much like the rest of Italy, Rome is predominantly Roman Catholic, and the city has for centuries been the home of the Roman Catholic Church and the Bishop of Rome, otherwise known as the Pope.

Our day started early with an optional tour of The Vatican, home to St Peter’s Basilica, as well as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums. The Vatican City is a state, ruled by the Bishop of Rome – the Pope, head of the worldwide Catholic Church and the location of the Pope’s residence since 1929. The Vatican is the only remaining absolute monarchy in Europe.On March 13, 2013, Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio of Argentina was elected Pontiff, taking the name Pope Francis. When doing a guided tour you are also allowed access to the Vatican’s lavish gardens.

St. Peter’s Basilica is the most renowned work of Renaissance architecture and remains one of the largest churches in the world. This magnificent basilica with its Michelangelo designed dome has an awe-inspiring interior. St. Peter’s is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. It has been described as ‘holding a unique position in the Christian world’ and as ‘the greatest of all churches of Christendom’. This place is huge, to give you a comparison, you can fit the Statue of Liberty, underneath the dome with room to spare.

The Vatican Museums are the museums of the Vatican City, they display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. The Sistine Chapel with its ceiling decorated by Michelangelo and the Stanzedella Segnatura decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. The Vatican Museums broke attendance records in 2011 with just over 5 million people.

The Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel of the Vatican City, famous for its architecture and decoration. Michelangelo painted the chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512 and between 1535 and 1541 he painted The Last Judgment. These works are considered the crowning achievements of Western painting.Accessing the Sistine Chapel requires walking through many spectacular halls and it takes about an hour. Once inside, however, it is not permitted to take pictures or talk loudly.

Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling he painted the ancestors of Christ. Above this he alternated male and female prophets, with Jonah over the altar. On the highest section, Michelangelo painted nine stories from the Book of Genesis. He was originally commissioned to paint only 12 figures, the Apostles but after the work was finished there were more than 300. The painted area is about 40M long by 13M wide. This means that Michelangelo painted well over 5,000 square feet.

“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.”—Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 23 August 1787.

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