It’s not everyday that you visit the capital of Christendom. It’s definitely not common to visit twice in 24 hours and throw in a visit by the big guy himself, the Pope. On Christmas Eve & Christmas day DUS and I toured Vatican City: St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s square.
St. Peter’s Basilica is huge. Consecrated in 1626, it has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It’s hard to describe the size of this church and after eavesdropping on a few tour guides, they seem to have a similar problem. From the entrance door to the Naive is 715 feet. That’s two American football fields. Despite its size, the Church is designed in such a way that if feels intimate due to the proportions of figures, windows and other architectural feature. Statues on the ground level are human size while figures towards the ceiling are variable giants. The famous dove stained glass window behind the alter looks relatively small at the Church entrance, but in reality it’s over six feet high. That’s a big bird.
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is often said to be the single greatest piece of artwork by a single individual anywhere in the world. I would agree. At 132 feet long and 65 feet from the main floor of the chapel ceiling it’s hard to comprehend how one person could design, paint and finish this masterpiece in less than four years. Not to mention it was the year 1508. A key to making the most of the experience was a small set of binoculars (that I carry on every trip) to study the details in each part of the ceiling. The scale and level of detail is nothing short of amazing. Each figure is painted as if you were standing right in from of it: Eye lashes, wrinkles, they’ve got it all.
Every year at noon on Christmas day the Pope address Catholics around the world from the balcony of Saint Peter’s Basilica and in 2011 “we were there man.” The bright Mediterranean sun warmed the crowd of thousands as Pope Benedict XVI wished Merry Christmas in 40 different languages as wells as conducting the lords prayer (I’m pretty sure, it was in Latin :)). Both DUS and I reflected on how powerful and uplifting the experience was. No matter what your faith, this was a special event in a special place.
If you’ve ever wondered about going to Rome for Christmas, this event alone is worth the trip.