Big Business – Vatican City, Italy

I woke up on Halloween morning and took a grumpy Calen for breakfast. We drank coffee and ate croissants. Then I went to a fruit and vegetable market to buy persimmons and a banana. I couldn`t believe how cheap it was! And it was tasty too.

We all made our way to the Vatican City where everyone except for Lauren Kate and I went on a tour. The three of us decided to go at it ourselves saving the 30 Euro. So we were standing around trying to get our bearings when a girl came up to us and asked us if we would like to join a free 45 min tour. Well, why not? I guess patience does pay off!

As we walked in to St. Peters Square, I gasped at the grandness of it all. There are 284 devastatingly high columns and 140 statues of saints. From an aerial view this square is in the shape of a keyhole. This is supposed to have something to do with Jesus handing the keys to St. Peter. There are some elaborate fountains by Maderno and Carlo Fontana which will give you a light spray as you wander by.

Next we walked through a heavy security station where the guy didn`t even look into my bag which I was directed to keep open, but just looked in my eyes then waved me through. I musn`t look very threatening.

We walked into St. Peters Basilica and I was immediately aware that this was not like any of the other churches I have been to so far. It was overwhelmingly enormous! I learned that it is built over St. Peters tomb and that it is the largest church in the world. They have even recorded the measurements of other great world churches in the floor along the axis of the nave, just to prove it I guess. To the naked eye you wouldn’t believe how high it is: 186m long, 132m high, there are 44 alters and Michelangelo`s magnificent dome is supported by 4 massive piers.

Under the dome, above the alter, stands Bernini`s famous Baldaquin (canopy) cast in bronze taken from the Pantheon. I guess the Pope got tired of yelling so this canopy makes in easier for his voice to project out into the congregation. I saw the Pietà which Michealangelo made when he was only 23. This is the only work that he ever signed. The dove in the middle of the very thin marble that looks like stained glass, is over 2 meters wide! You would never believe it even standing so close. It’s almost like this whole church is an optical illusion.

While we were there, there was a special ceremony because some ambassador was arriving. We watched the short but formal arrival. It only lasted about 10 mins but the guards were dressed like jesters in their colorful uniforms. I expected them to start juggling and dancing at any moment.

There was one statue that really struck me. It was a large bronze skeleton grasping an hour glass but its head was covered. A bit disturbing but a stunning piece of work. I found that pictures taken in this church turned out much better without a flash. I suppose there is so much natural light. The place was packed with tourists as it was closed the next day for All Saints Day. I didn’t really get a sense of peace and serenity that I had felt in smaller churches except for in the prayer room. And even there it was a bit strained.

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