Sunday, May 30, 2010

Rome: the Vatican

On March 26, we went to the Vatican. Our friends in Rome said that of all of the people who have come to visit them, hands down, we spent the most time in the Vatican City. I am nothing if not thorough.

We started our morning by attending the Papal Ceremony. I applied in advance, and we got two blue tickets. But they didn't check our names or anything, so I'm not sure if we really needed to apply in advance. The audience is open seating. You can also just walk in and sit down (which I didn't know), but you're a little further away from the podium than where we were with our blue tickets. The atmosphere is rather chaotic with people waving flags and cheering.
These guys are in charge of keeping everything under control.

Here's what happens at the Papal mass. First, there was a band playing "We are the World," among other songs. The Pope then drives around in his bullet-proof golf cart waving at people for a while. Then he goes up to the podium and various bishops (or cardinals, or I don't really any rate other various members of the clergy), come out and read a sort of announcement. We counted six of these people, reading in Italian, French, Spanish, German, English, and I'm not sure what the sixth language was...maybe Latin? Then the Pope reads a sermon. At least that's what I thought it was. Then these same six guys come back out and read another sort of announcement. This time it lists big groups from various countries who have come to be blessed, and informs us that we, our families, and any religious mementos and artifacts we've brought will all be considered as blessed. Then the pope reads the blessing. The Bible verse quoted in our blessing was one I'd never heard before, and it was actually a little scary.

Captain America and I left the mass after the blessing (other people in our row were getting up, and we had to get up to let them out), so I'm not really sure how the mass ends. It was just as well we left early because we beat everyone to the entrance to the Vatican museums and were able to just walk in and buy our tickets. Eventually the others in the audience caught up to us, but at least we were already inside looking at things.

Apparently there are four suggested itineraries for the Vatican Museums, but I didn't notice that. In fact, I don't think we got a map of the museum at all. The only thing we skipped was the Etruscan museum. I really enjoyed the maps, the tapestries (although I thought the unicorn ones in the cloisters in New York were better), and of course, the Raphael rooms.

The School of Athens was more colorful than I expected, but no one's clothes had patterns. Is that strange, or just me?

You are not allowed to take pictures of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, but it was actually better than I imagined. Of course, I came prepared with binoculars. Not opera glasses, nope, but gigantic whale-watching style binoculars. I'm sure I looked ridiculous, but anyone paying attention to me in the Sistine Chapel was missing the point!

After the Vatican museums, we went it St. Peter's Basilica. I had read that it was impressive, but unattractive. It was definitely impressive, but I would not have said it was unattractive. It was a little frustrating the number of things we couldn't do in St. Peter's. There were a few statues I wasn't allowed to go near because I wasn't attending mass. Yes, I was puzzled, too. We couldn't go into the crypts, although that didn't surprise me, and we couldn't go see the tomb of Charlemagne.

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