The Go-To Church for 1 Billion Catholics: St. Peter’s Basilica… Armchair Travel

In my last post we stood in St. Peter’s Square and looked at St. Peter’s Basilica. This time we go inside plus visit the Vatican Museum as part of my armchair travel series. This post is based on a 2015 post.

One of the world’s best-loved works of art, Michelangelo’s Pieta, is located in St. Peter’s Basilica.

St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is one of the world’s great churches. It is simply breathtaking. Walk inside and you are ready to join the Faith… whether you are faithful or not. The church was built during the Renaissance utilizing the greatest artists of Italy when Italy had the greatest artists in the world.

Visiting, you might say, is an indulgence of the highest order. In fact the church was built on indulgence… or, more correctly, indulgences: lots of them. Let’s say you committed a very, very BIG sin. No problem, if you were very, very wealthy. The church was willing to sell you forgiveness, an indulgence if you will. It was a guarantee you’d make it through the Pearly Gates.

The practice was so widespread, and so profitable, and so corrupt in fact, that it led a relatively unknown monk by the name of Martin Luther to tack up a list of 95 demands on the doors of a German church and kick off the Protestant Reformation.

But that is all far behind us in the very distant past. I, for one, am glad that the Pope found a way to pay for his splendid monument. And, I suspect, given a few minutes alone with Michelangelo’s Pieta, the most protesting of Protestants would agree.

Bernini’s ornate seven story high bronze canopy oversees the simple altar where the Pope holds Communion.
Looking up past Bernini’s Canopy at Michelangelo’s dome, which towers 448 feet from the floor.
This photo of the nave of St. Peter’s Basilica gives an idea of just how big the church is. 60,000 people standing shoulder to shoulder could stand inside.

If St. Peter’s isn’t enough to pull you into the Vatican, its magnificent museum with over four miles of art should. The tour ends with the Sistine Chapel where Michelangelo spent four years on his back filling 5900 square feet with art.

Our tour of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum was far too short. Even cutting out half of the museum, I felt like an Olympic sprinter. Give yourself a couple of days to explore these outstanding treasures.

The collection of the Vatican Museum ranges from ancient Egypt to modern times. This is a statue, I believe, of the Egyptian God Anubis who had the body of a man and the head of a jackal.
I was quite taken with this lion in the Vatican museum. Note the eyes.
Man’s best friend! Woof!
Finally, I wanted to emphasize how incredibly ornate portions of the Vatican are. This was the ceiling of the map room. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

NEXT POST: We will visit Rome’s ancient forum.

28 thoughts on “The Go-To Church for 1 Billion Catholics: St. Peter’s Basilica… Armchair Travel

    • No, we didn’t get up to the top of St.Peters, Andrew. As I recall, we ran out of time. There was so much of Rome to see in the three days that we had. I would guess that the view would be absolutely spectacular, however. –Curt

  1. I would love to get into their archives, but you have to be a very special person to do that! I can’t imagine how long it took someone on their back to complete the ceiling of the map room!!

    • Apparently, painting while lying on your back was quite the thing in those days, G. One can only imagine what all is included in those archives! I’m not sure that my one year of high school Latin would get me very far. 🙂 –Curt

  2. Not remotely surprised by the corruption. Happens in every religion. Apparently good Buddhists too can buy their way to Nirvana lol. I am endlessly sceptical when it comes to religion. But . . . I agree the treasures this graft has given us is a wonderful thing! We fortunately had quite a bit of time in the museum, and I kept looking up and around at the ornate walls and ceilings that constantly reminded me that the building was previously a palace. I also spent time in front of the pieta – such an extraordinary piece of art. The chapel was a disappointment at it was quite literally wall to wall people and a guard was angrily trying (without success) to control people and actually called Don a dwarf! And not in a nice way. We did however take the time to look up.

    • Hopefully Don had an appropriate response to the guard, if only a well-concealed symbolic gesture. 🙂 It was wall-to-wall people when we were there as well, which I guess isn’t surprising. The rest of our trip through the museum wasn’t that bad.
      I am never surprised about religion given that it is an all-too-human institution! –Curt

  3. I’m not one of those who grouses about how all that money could be better spent. The fact is that secular charitable institutions can be just as corrupt as the Church, and many of them don’t leave us anything approaching this kind of beauty. Besides — people need beauty. It’s the old bread/daffodils argument, but being the both/and sort that I am, I’ll accept the beauty as the gift that it is- -and then leave something in the alms box!

    • God only knows (slight irony), we spend billions on less worth while things, Linda. There are other things about religions, such as religious wars, that disturb me much more. Building or making something of great beauty in the name of God is one thing… –Curt

  4. Good Curt. There is a reason why Rome is called “the eternal city”. A visit there does really stick to your memory for your entire life. I was used to go to Rome at least once a year before the pandemic so I miss being there now.

  5. The Basilica is seriously impressive, but despite the grandeur I’d trade it all to spend more time communing with the Pieta. I’m not especially religious, but I consider that to be the finest piece of sculpture I’ve ever seen. We too only had time for but a fragment of the museum, but even that fragment was huge.

    • I have to agree, Dave. The Pieta has to be close to the top of the world’s great art. And the museum has a fascinating collection, which isn’t surprising, given how long the Catholic Church has been around to collect it. 🙂 –Curt

  6. We thoroughly enjoyed our last visit to St. Peter’s — the architecture, statuary, icons, etc. It just gets better each time. Also, I think we appreciate the work that went in to the building of this place even more. Thanks for posting.

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