The Vatican City is the smallest country in the world at just 0.2 square miles and home to just 780 people. The pope is the Head of the state and Government of Vatican City. He is also the head of the Roman Catholic Church (which I guess you already knew)! Vatican City is a landlocked country within the city of Rome.
With all of the coverage of the recent Papal elections and conclave, it is worth considering what there is to do there in this tiny country. Catholic or not, it is rich in history, art and architecture and a few intrigues one would imagine. Top tips:
1. Vatican Museums
The Vatican museums (or Musei Vaticani) are a massive and invaluable collection of art and sculpture outlining the development of the Catholic Church through the ages. It is particularly strong on the Renaissance period. Thought the various museums you will see works by Caravaggio (The Entombment), Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Titian, Giotto – just to name a few. We are talking some serious art works here.
2. Sistine Chapel
Well it is famous! Famous for its architecture and its decorations, its frescoes and works by Boticelli, Perugniom, Pinturicchio and many more. And who cannot forget the ceiling of the Sistine chapel done by Michelangelo, which includes the Last Judgment. This is where the conclave meets to elect the new pope, as we have just recently witnessed.
3. St Peters Square and Basilica
St Peters Basilicas built on the site of St Peters tomb, and is the largest church in the world. It is here that you will be astounded by the architecture and art, including Michelangelo’s Pieta. St Peter Square is where the Pope appears at the window at times to bless the people. The Swiss guards are all around in their colourful uniforms.
3. Vatican Grottoes
Beneath the floors of St Peters Cathedral are the tombs of deceased popes and saints. This is where you find out about the intrigue. Each tomb has accompanying information about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It is very informative and highly interesting.
4. Go to Mass – seriously
Masses are free in the Vatican City and are held from Monday to Saturday 5 times a day and seven times on a Sunday. However, you will still need a ticket to get in as sometimes there can be huge crowds and if the crown exceeds the capacity, you are out. For the big events mass will be held in St Peters Square. This can be done a couple of days before if you happen to be or near Rome and can be obtained from the Swiss guard ( a photo opportunity if ever I saw one), otherwise you can send a letter to the Vatican and they will reply to your home address (now that’s a keepsake – perhaps a ticket into heaven!). The key to getting a good seat particularly on big occasions like Christmas and Easter is to book early and for all masses, get there early.
5. Meet the Pope
This can be achieved on a Wednesday at 10.00. You definitely need a ticket and to get there very very early (up to 3 hours before) so you can get a seat near the front, and snap away –‘ Me and Pope Francis at mass’.
Photo by gaspars on Flickr