Let’s talk about Vatican City today.
For the previous post in the series, click here.
Hello everyone! Today’s world wonder is quite different from the ‘wonders’ we have discussed till now in that it not exactly a singular ‘wonder’ but more of an amalgamation of many ‘wonders’ if you will. It comprises of many important UNESCO world heritage sites and is one that I’m so excited for because I absolutely enjoyed my visit there and I really just want to geek out about it. (Also I might as well warn you right now because there will be lots of geeking out and fact spouting, so you know, proceed with caution) Without further ado, let’s get on with talking about the world’s smallest sovereign state, home to the Pope(and some of the most culturally significant art and architecture in the world), the Vatican city-state, within the city of Rome, Italy.
Vatican city comprises of many important sites like the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Since we have so much to cover, I’ve decided to go about this post a bit differently. I will be walking you through the city exactly as I did, in that order, one Wednesday morning in June 2017. I remember it being a Wednesday because that had turned out to be not a very ideal day to visit. We were unaware that it was the day the Pope addressed the state, every week, so it was a bit of a crowded day with many things blocked off and chairs laid out all over the centre of the city.
For the Vatican, we had a lovely, very bubbly and cheerful tour guide, Letizia, who I for one, definitely bonded with based on my excitement and fact-dropping when I saw in front of me, all the famous art and sculptures I had only heard of till now. We met Letizia at the main doorway to the city, where she began her tour by telling us that in the sculpture right above us, the great artists Raphael and Michaelangelo (On the right and left respectively) were represented, for their many contributions to the beauty and grandeur of the Vatican.
Then, we walked into the first of the Vatican Museums. The museums surprisingly, became one of my favourite parts of the visit, because there was just so many famous paintings, sculptures and frescoes there and I could not stop obsessing over them. We saw many originals, as well as recreations of famous art pieces and even the ceilings, were so gorgeous! (Letizia was just as excited about the art as I was, which was actually the best and made all this much more fun!)
Next, we went to St.Peters Basilica, a gorgeous specimen of Baroque and Renaissance architecture. It is the largest church in the world and considered one of the holiest Catholic shrines. It is also home to Michelangelo’s Pietà, a sculpture that depicts Jesus on the lap of his mother Mary after his crucifixion. It is also the only sculpture that he ever signed. I am not Catholic but even for me, the church felt so grand, so solemn and so unbelievably beautiful.
We then walked into the Raphael Stanze or the Raphael Rooms in the Vatican museum which are pretty much exactly what they sound like and are just covered head to toe in Raphael’s most famous paintings and frescoes. For the uninitiated, Raphael was an Italian Renaissance artist, considered one of the best and part of the traditional trinity of the great masters of that period, along with Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo(Who by the way, comes up later.) These rooms were unbelievable, and it was like walking into history, being surrounded by all these gorgeous, really famous pieces of art and I was completely besotten by the beauty of it all.
Finally, we got to what you(maybe) and I (definitely) had been waiting for: The Sistine Chapel. This was, without a shadow of a doubt, my favourite part of the visit. Seeing Michelangelo’s iconic frescoes through my own eyes was a once in a lifetime experience. Finding the classic god creating man fresco in front of me gave me literal chills. The entire ceiling and every wall is covered in magnificence and I, a mere mortal, was just trying to do the seemingly impossible task of capturing it all and bringing it back with me. It has to be one of the best moments of my life and no words are ever going to be enough. I was lucky enough to see something special, something unbelievable, something from 500 odd years ago. I had only ever seen it in pictures and in my opinion, no picture can capture the grandiose of it all. (Also fun fact courtesy Letizia: Michelangelo saw himself as a sculptor and not a painter and thus took offence at being commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel and rather cheekily painted everyone, god, mortal and whatnot in every fresco, naked. One of his friends came and painted clothes on everyone to save Michelangelo from the church’s wrath. Talk about petty.)
Then we walked around the centre of the city, where we saw all of the Vatican standing together, all imposing in its grandeur. The buildings, the gardens, the fountains, it is such a gorgeous place and each and every part is so striking. It was here that I had a wonderful moment with Letizia, that I’ve actually talked about before in my “Hermione Complex” post. She was lovely enough to tell me that I reminded her of her father, who was a great poet and one of her favourite people and that I was going to grow up to be a very wise person. It is one of my most cherished memories and Letizia if you’re reading, thank you so much, it was very kind. On that warm and fuzzy note, let’s wrap up on our Vatican adventure. I hope I was able to express at least some of the joy and wonder I felt when I visited the place. See you next time!
THIS POST’S QUESTION: Have you ever been to the Vatican City? How was your experience? Comment below with what you think about it,I’d love to hear from you!