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.

St. Peter’s Basilica… Indulge Yourself

Seeing Michelangelo's Pieta on its own is worth visiting St. Peter's Basilica.

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 bronze canopy in St. Peter's Basilica

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.

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.

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, and where a gaggle of Cardinals recently elected the new Pope Francis. I know, I know, gaggle goes with geese.

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 of the Egyptian God Anubis.

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.

I was quite taken with this lion in the Vatican museum. Note the eyes. Mmmm, what a great tasting horse.

Finally, I can never resist man's best friend.

Finally, I can never resist man’s best friend.

Ceiling of Map Room in Vatican Museum

Finally, I wanted to emphasize how incredibly ornate portions of the Vatican are. This was the ceiling of the map room in the Vatican Museum. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

NEXT BLOGS: In Rome we will be traveling to a site I guarantee you will recognize, the Colosseum. Since it is National Park Week, I also plan to do a blog featuring several of America’s beautiful national parks that Peggy and I have visited.

Rome’s Vatican… The Hundred Acre Home of One Billion Catholics

Cloudy skies provide a dramatic backdrop for St. Peter's Basilica with its magnificent dome designed by Michelangelo.

Cloudy skies provide a colorful backdrop for St. Peter’s Basilica with its magnificent dome designed by Michelangelo. This photo is taken while standing in St. Peters Square. Look closely, and you will see ant-like people waiting to enter.

I felt awe when I entered St. Peter’s Basilica. The massive dome designed by Michelangelo is higher than a football field is long. Bernini’s bronze, seven-story canopy looms over the altar where the Pope holds services. Every nook and cranny is filled with world-renowned art such as the Pieta. All combine to inspire a sense of the sacred.

Our hotel in Rome, the Giulio Cesare, was within a mile of the Vatican. We walked over twice, getting mildly lost both times. It didn’t matter. Rome is chock-full of fascinating architecture and tantalizing history.

The first time we went via the Tiber River, passing by the Castle St. Angelo and its neighboring bridge, the Pont St. Angelo. Eventually this brought us to the broad avenue leading up to St. Peter’s Square and Basilica. Mussolini built the avenue to provide visitors with a better view of the church. He also gave the 100-acre Vatican its independent nation status. Today the Vatican serves as the religious center for some one billion Catholics.

The Victor Immanuel Bridge reflected in the Tiber River of Rome.

The Victor Immanuel Bridge reflected in the Tiber River of Rome.

Peggy, her brother John and his wife Frances stand in front of the Tiber River and the Pont St. Angelo (the Bridge of Angels)

Peggy, her brother John and his wife Frances stand in front of the Tiber River and the Pont St. Angelo (the Bridge of Angels). The bridge was once the Bridge of Emperor Hadrian and dates from the Roman Empire.

The Pont St. Angelo received its name during the Renaissance when Bernini oversaw a project to line it with angels representing Christ's crucifixion.

Pont St. Angelo received its name during the Renaissance when Bernini oversaw a project to line the bridge with angels reminding the faithful of Christ’s crucifixion. This one carries a lance representing the spear used by a Roman Soldier to jab Christ in the side. 

The rounded Castle St. Angelo stands next to the bridge. Built originally as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, it would later become a prison and then fort. Today it serves as a museum.

The rounded Castle St. Angelo stands next to the bridge. Built originally as a mausoleum for Emperor Hadrian, it would later become a prison and then fort. Today it serves as a museum. St. Michael stands on top of the castle with sword drawn to fight off the plague. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

A view of St. Peter's Square featuring Bernini's columns that enclose the square.

A view of St. Peter’s Square featuring a portion of Bernini’s Colonnade. Statues of 10 foot tall saints line the top.

Another perspective of St. Peter's Square. This is taken from the Basilica looking back. The boulevard built my Mussolini is in the distance. Bernini's Colonnade opens out, welcoming the faithful.

Another perspective of St. Peter’s Square. This is taken from the Basilica looking back. The boulevard built by Mussolini is in the distance. Bernini’s Colonnade opens out, welcoming the faithful.

OObelisk in St. Peter's Square

This obelisk, seen in the previous picture, dominates St. Peter’s Square. Once upon a time it resided in Egypt, but its home in Rome predates that of the Vatican when it stood over Nero’s race track where Christians were persecuted and Peter was crucified upside down.

The top of St. Peter's Basilica, like Bellini's Colonnade, features saints, and each side of the Basilica has a large clock. The saint on the left is Simon the Zealot. You can tell your saints by the tools they carry. Simon was a carpenter and is show with his saw. Peter is always shown with his keys to Heaven. The keys, BTW, are found throughout the Basilica. Check out the top of the clock.

The top of St. Peter’s Basilica, like Bellini’s Colonnade, features saints. The saint on the left is Simon the Zealot. You can tell your saints by the tools they carry. Simon was a carpenter and is shown with his saw. Simon was called the Zealot because he left his wife and kids to follow Jesus. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson)

No blog on the Vatican would be complete without showing the changing of the Swiss Guard, the Pope's mercenaries.

No blog on the Vatican would be complete without showing the changing of the Swiss Guard with their pikes and colorful uniforms. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Lamp on St. Peter's Square.

This lamp from St. Peter’s Square is here because I like it. You’ll see it peeking out on the left hand corner of St. Peter’s Basilica at the beginning of this blog.

I conclude this blog with this shot I took of the massive columns on the front of St. Peter's Basilica. I felt it provided an interesting perspective on the size of the church.

I will conclude with this shot I took of the massive columns on the front of St. Peter’s Basilica. I felt they provided an interesting perspective on the size of the church.

NEXT BLOG: I will take you inside of  St. Peter’s Basilica and provide a brief tour of the Vatican Museum.