Europe Photoblogging, Part 21: The Vatican
By Dwip September 28, 2014, 5:01 pm Comments (0) RSS Feed for this post

As noted by famous authorities the Stone Temple Pilots, there really is a Vatican gift shop on the roof of St. Peter’s Basilica. This is it.

I took a side trip to the most important site in Catholicism towards the end of my Rome trip on 6/26/04, as chronicled here. I say side trip, but the home of the Pope is actually just across the Tiber from everywhere I had just been, so it wasn’t all THAT much off to the side.

This is the basilica from St. Peter’s Square, which like everything else papal was designed by Bernini. As you can see, it’s enormous, built to accomodate the thousands of pilgrims who come here on a regular basis. If you’ve seen the Pope give a public audience, this is where he does it.

Another picture from the same spot, showing one arm of the massive collonade that surrounds the square.

Everyone in Rome must have an Egyptian obelisk, and this one sits in the center of St. Peter’s Square, and has since 1586. As with everything else in this city, it’s been capped off with a cross for the glory of God.

It’s a subtle sort of message.

These are two of the Swiss Guards, who really are Swiss even in this day and age and serve as the Papal bodyguard. These two are ceremonial, but they also have guns around as well if things get out of hand.

This is at one end or other of the collonade on the north side of St. Peter’s Square leading into the rest of the Vatican complex.

We’re in the interior now, looking at the center, in which stands the altar designed by, who else, Bernini. As you can see, guys in the Renaissance really went in for lavish, and the Popes could definitely afford to construct a pretty nice monument to the glory of God and themselves. They hired some of the best minds of the Renaissance to accomplish it, too. The list of architects reads like a who’s who list and includes Raphael and (most notably) Michaelangelo, who will go on to become fully one half of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

As you can also see, the place is packed. Getting into the Vatican wasn’t too bad, but I will later skip the Sistine Chapel because the line, even at an early hour in the morning, was gigantic. Sometimes you’ve gotta prioritize.

This woman is taking a picture of something while kneeling on the porphyry disc where Charlemagne legendarily knelt to be crowned the Holy Roman Emperor on Christmas Day in the year 800 AD.

She’s not Charlemagne, but it’ll do.

This is the tomb of Innocent XII, Pope from 1691 to 1700 and one in the long line of reformist Popes who sought to undo the corruption of earlier centuries.

I need to impress upon you that this sort of sculpture is absolutely everywhere within St. Peter’s.

I have this written down in my notes as “that one Bernini thing” because, as I noted previously, there’s a whole lot of Bernini things in St. Peter’s. In fact, this isn’t the only Bernini thing in the picture – in addition to St. Peter’s Baldachin over the altar there, there’s also the Throne of St. Peter behind it.

There is absolutely no symbolism present in anything in this picture.

Standing near St. Peter’s Baldachin, this is the central dome of the basilica, in which it is shown that A, Michaelangelo knew how to build a dome, and B, guys in the Renaissance were good at decoration.

As should be clear, pretty much everything in the dome over one of the most important sites in Christianity is symbolic, starting with the words in Latin around the dome (“you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church…I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven”)

This is another work by Bernini, the tomb of Alexander VII, Pope from 1655 to 1667, a great urban renewer of the city of Rome, and patron of Bernini, who as you can see here went all out for the tomb.

I’ve always thought the really impressive thing here is how that marble looks like cloth.

The important thing in this picture is that kid over there in the middle, leashed and sort of dejectedly squatting. I can sort of see, were you mom over there, why you’d want to do it – I wouldn’t want my kid to run off on me – and yet at the time it made me kind of mad. Leashing people and breaking spirits has never seemed to me to be one of the things Christ was about, and yet here we are.

Do you enjoy using marble as a decorative stone? People in the Renaissance did. I’m not sure if I’ve conveyed to you adequately how over the top the level of detail in this place is, from the balcony railings on down.

Again with the detail. I’m inside the dome now, looking back down at the altar and center of the basilica.

Again, the level of detail here is extreme. How crazy is that floor?

Finally, this is atop of the dome, looking back over St. Peter’s Square. You can see the Tiber in the center, with Castel Sant’Angelo, once the tomb of Hadrian, next to it. The Pantheon and Il Vittoriano are visible to the right, and the giant wooded area to the left is the Villa Borghese.


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