Sunday, October 13, 2013

Rome Holidays - 8 St Peter's Basilica

We were told by some self-claimed guide that St Peter's Basilica was closed until 2.30pm that day.  I had serious doubts about the accuracy of this information, as I had been cheated by this kind of 'kind' information before.  Anyway, we were at St Peter's Square at 2.30pm.  My heart was pounding.  Wah, finally I was standing in St Peter's Square, a place where I could only dream of.  It is so big, and it is surrounded by the beautiful colonnade designed by the famous architecture Gian Lorenzo Bernini.  Do you feel his name is very familiar?  Yes, he is also the one behind the Fountain of the Old Boat at the Spanish Steps, as well as the Fountain of Four Rivers at Piazza Navona.  Rome is kind of shaped by this genius architect in the 17th century.

St Peter's Square Looking Down from the Cupola

Front View of St Peter's Basilica and the Egyptian Obelisk

In the center of the square, stands the Egyptian obelisk, built in Egypt more than 3000 years ago, and brought to Rome in 37 BC.  Surmounting the obelisk is a globe and a cross.  Rumor has it that the globe contains the ashes of Julius Caesar.  If you wonder why a symbol of the Egyptian sun god stands in the very heart of Roman Catholic Church, the answer is that this obelisk is said to have witness the martyrdom of St Peter, and so it is here.

To enter St Peter's Basilica, you have to queue up for security check at the left side of the square, if you are facing the basilica.  The queue was long, number of people was huge.   That section of the colonnade basically became the security corridor.  It took us about an hour in the queue before we finally entered the basilica itself.

Wow, the basilica is huge!  And it is like a treasure vault.  There are so many great art pieces in this one single place.  I was completely speechless, and awed by such massive achievement of the human race.

Michelangelo's Pieta

First you are being greeted by Michelangelo's Pieta.  The piece of art that made the young Michelangelo famous.
Beautiful ceilings in the side chapels
High Altar
The Dome of St Peter's Basilica
Fresco of the Ceilings

Awesome is the one and only word that I can think of to describe this place.

Statue of St Peter

In front of the high altar, sits the statue of St Peter, who this church is named after.  St Peter is one of Jesus' 12 disciples, and is said to be buried under the basilica.  He is also said to hold the key to heaven.
Wah, St Peter's Basilica is a place where one must visit at least once in his/her life time.

Vatican's Swiss Guard

And how can I leave out the famous Vatican Swiss Guards?  They have been serving the Pope faithful for centuries.  They are actually considered to be mercenaries, as they are all of Swiss national, but serve in a foreign country called Vatican.  Switzerland had since banned all her citizens to serve in any form of mercenary with the only exception of those Swiss guards.

Do you think that's all for St Peter's?  Not yet.  After you come out from the basilica, remember to turn left and follow the sign to get the ticket to climb the cupola!  Cupola basically means the dome.  You have to first climb up some hundreds of steps, wide and windy to the base of the dome.  From there, you will continue to climb, on stairs that is sandwiched between the inner wall and outer wall of the dome.  The stairs are narrow and will bend as the dome bends.  If you are not physically fit, I would not advise you to take this climb.

Is it worth the climb?  Definitely YES!  It offers you a super view of Vatican and Rome.  You are on top of the world.

You can find all Rome Holidays posts here

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