Thursday, September 22, 2011

St. Peter's Basilica, Vatican City

The biggest attraction at the Vatican is Basilica Papale di San Pietro in Vaticano (St. Peter's Basilica).

Until 1989 it was the largest church in the world. It still has the largest interior of any Christian church and can hold 60,000 people.

St. Peter's is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites. This is where St. Peter, who was one of Jesus' twelve apostles and who was the first pope, was crucified and buried. His tomb is directly below the basilica's altar.

The original 4th century basilica was begun by the Roman Emperor Constantine from 319 - 333 AD. Construction of the current basilica began in 1506 and was completed in 1626.

The church is amazing! Vatican City is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We even managed to attend mass, in Italian, in one of the side chapels. There is a strictly enforced dress code - no shorts, bare shoulders or short skirts. Even if you make it past the fashion police at the security check, the attendants at the door will turn away anyone that is showing too much skin.

The apartment that we rented during our Roman holiday was only about a seven minute walk to St. Peter's Square. Anyone who does not get up and go early in the morning is a big fool!! We were there by 7:30 AM and it felt like we had the place all to ourselves. By 10:30 the place is crowded and waves of tour groups begin taking over. We really enjoyed our early morning walks as we watch the sun come up over the square.

Around the corner is the Vatican Museum. Again, if you go early then the crowds aren't bad and you don't have to worry about purchasing tickets in advance.

The Roman Catholic Church has an amazing art collection. I really enjoyed all of the sculptures. Of course the highlight of the museum is the Sistine Chapel. The museum is pretty liberal about letting people take pictures except, of course, when it comes to the chapel. There is a strict no camera policy. Here are a couple of photos I found on the Internet of the chapel. It is much more impressive in person.

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