Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St Peters Basilica

The word was to get to the Vatican before 10:00 am.  Our goal was to be out the door by 8:00 and be in the queue by 8:30.  Well, best laid plans…  I think we arrived at the queue by 9:15. Everyone else had the same idea.  When we entered the line, Rachel started her stopwatch and let us know how much time had passed at multiple points.  Even before we reached the queue there were many tour guides saying we could skip the queue with a guide.Eventually after 1 hour 10 minutes we passed the security screening (as timed by Rachel).

Once inside the line for tickets took maybe 2 minutes.  With tickets in hand we proceeded to follow the arrows.  At one point there was a fork in the road.  To the left up stairs was the short path to the Sistine Chapel, to the right was another arrow to the Sistine Chapel.

Perseus with the head of Medusa

The short way had the most people, so went to the right.  The right arrow took us to gallery after gallery starting with with mostly structures of Roman gods and occasional Greek gods, e.g., Hera shown with Marcia below.

Marcia and I had the same reaction upon entering the Sistine Chapel. “Is this it? It seemed smaller than the immense buildup given by Rick Steves and the various guidebooks.  We stood there near the center of the chapel and craned our head upward.  It took some time to find the panel with god’s finger about to touch Adam.  Eventually we found it but after 10 to 15 minutes standing and looking up, our necks were reaching the uncomfortable point.  Michelangelo spent four years on scfolds looking up and working quickly before the plaster dried.  The colors were vivid and we were glad we saw it after the restoration/cleaning that was done from 1990 to 1994.  As a New York Times article mentioned the result were richly hued frescoes.
IMG_1403 The entire floor of the chapel and benches on both sides were full.  Even standing one’s personal space was a bit tighter than comfortable. Photos within the Sistine Chapel were forbidden.  Appropriate for a place of worship there were multiple signs requesting silence.  Unfortunately, neither request was honored by the crowd. We honored the requests by not taking photos, we could hear shutters clicking left and right.  To calm the voice volume, the guards would occasionally yell to be quiet. The above photo is Marcia in front of Hera.  Hera is the god of matrimony and wife of Zeus.  Three years ago I drove up to Ann Arbor, Michigan to pick up a small sailboat.  It was a gift from Jack to Jack, but since it was the day before Mother’s day, I sent Marcia a picture of the boat and said, “Happy Mother’s Day.”

Next up was St Peter’s Basilica. If the size of the Sistine was smaller than we expected, St Peter’s was grander than either of us imagined.  Designed by Michelangelo, the dome is the length of a football field off the ground.  The scaffolding alone must have been an incredible engineering challenge.  Built 500 years ago without the help of cranes or motors.

The view from the top of St Peter’s Basilica

Below are two small sections of mosaics that are reached after about 300 steps up to St Peter’s dome.

The Pieta by Michelangelo
IMG_1081 (1)
Pope John XXIII in the wing of St Peter’s



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