Sunday, January 3, 2010

Travel to Rome: (Basilica di San Pietro) St. Peter's Basilica

There were so many things to see in St. Peter's Basilica that it deserves a post all on its own. You don't realize how huge the place is until you see it from afar. When you are in the square you don't even see Michelangelo's dome!

facade of st peters basilica

Go a few blocks away, turn back and wow!

st peters basilica from a distance

So after we viewed St. Peter's Square we headed for the Basilica. First thing you find is that if you are dressed trashy or like a hillbilly then you can not go inside, but if you are wearing an orange jumpsuit then you are fine. Hey, I am just going by the picture below. There is a man standing there to enforce the dress code. They say in the summer you will see a group of upset people in shorts standing off to the side because they can't go inside.

st peters basilica clothes rules

Once you get past the sign you walk in front of the Basilica and immediately feel dwarfed. We walked under the balcony where the Pope sometimes comes out to speak. From ground floor it is mighty high up.

popes balcony

Then it is time to walk in. Crossing over the threshold you see the sign of the Papal keys. Most people didn't even notice them, but they were huge, how could you not?

Papel Keys Entering St Peter Basilica

I looked up from the floor and gasped. The picture in no way truly represents the grandeur, elegance, magnificence, nor size of the Basilica. But it is all I have for now. The letters in the gold band at the center top of this picture are seven feet tall. So you can just imagine the hugeness of this all. There are people in the picture. Do you see them?

St Peters Basilica

Had we listened to the Rick Steve's free audio guide BEFORE going in we would have saved Michelangelo's Pieta until last, but we didn't. We are both right handed, as apparently most people, because we all just followed the crowd to the right. Most people tend to drift in the direction of their handedness. I knew we would see it sometime in Rome, but I didn't really remember where, so when we walked into the chapel that housed it, my breath was taken away.

Pieta by Michelangelo

I love the story that goes with this statue. According to

"Prior to sculpting the Pieta, Michelangelo was relatively unknown to the world as an artist. He was only in his early twenties when he was commissioned in 1498 to do a life-size sculpture of the Virgin Mary holding her son in her arms. In less than two years Michelangelo carved from a single slab of marble, one of the most magnificent sculptures ever created. When it was unveiled a proud Michelangelo stood by and watched as people admired the beautiful Pieta. However, what was pride quickly turned into anger as he overheard a group of people attributing the work to other artists of his time. That anger caused Michelangelo to add one last thing to his sculpture. Going down the sash on the Virgin Mary, Michelangelo carved his name. He later regretted that his emotions got the best of him and vowed to never sign another one of his works again."

The Basilica is filled with beautiful statues, paintings, and decorations. The light streaming in windows only adds to the splendor!

light in window st peter basilica

The sunlight on a statue of St. Peter.

St Peter in St Peters Basilica

The Papal altar is the center of the Basilica. It is the place where only the Pope is allowed to celebrate Mass. It is over 400 years old and the (baldacchino) canopy on the top is a enormous 95 feet tall! The tomb of St. Peter lies directly under the protection of the canopy.

papal alter

Above it all is the dome that was began by Michelangelo but he died before finishing, so finishing it was Giacomo della Porta. The diameter is over 230 feet across and the height from floor to roof is almost 400 feet, over a football field in height!

michelangelos dome in st peters basilica

Continuing around the Basilica here are some other sights. There are nativity scenes are everywhere in Rome, and Itlay. There was even one at the hotel. The nativity inside the Basilica was life size. Notice the missing baby Jesus, we were here before Christmas Eve so he wasn't put out yet.

presepio in st peter basilica

Not on this day but on Sunday, we did manage to hear and see Pope Benedict the XVI at the end of his Sunday prayers. He was standing at his study window. His bedroom window is the one to the right of where he is in the photo. He was speaking in Italian, so we don't really know what he was saying, and we are not Catholic, but it was still neat to see him. At the end of his prayer when he turned to go in all the people around us were chanting, "Papa! Papa!"

The Pope - Benedict XVI

I want to leave this post with one last shot of the Basilica at night. It was breathtaking...seems I keep using that word, but it is the best word to describe Rome!

st peters at night