The dome of St. Peter's from the roof of the North American College
So we are still waiting for our train to Bologna, but it has not yet been put on the board and is quite likely running late. YAY Trenitalia!!!! So it is now Friday March 14 at 11:30AM and I am finally blogging about Tuesday. I know that I am behind, but oh well, at least it is nice outside.
Tuesday morning was very early. The alarm at the convent is armed between midnight and 6:30AM and we were expected at St. Peter’s Basilica at 7AM for Mass celebrated by Gashwin’s Irish priest friend. Thus we rushed out of the hotel as early as we could. Once we arrived at St. Peter’s, the group we were meeting was already inside. We found them and then had Mass at a side altar over the grave of Pope St. Innocent XI who is placed in a coffin on the right side of the basilica. Following Mass, Giuseppe and I went to get in line for the Vatican Museums. Gashwin, Cristofero and Elisabetta went back to St. John Lateran’s and Holy Cross in Jerusalem.
The line for the Vatican Museums had already extended a half of a block when Giuseppe and I got in at 8:15. The museums open at 8:30AM and the line would probably extend 5 blocks before the end of the day. Entering the museums, one has to go through security before you can even get tickets. Giuseppe and I quickly got our tickets and ran straight towards the Sistine Chapel. After racing through the museum we reached the Sistine Chapel and sat down. Less than 50 people were already in the chapel and there were still seats around.
Giuseppe and I enjoyed the Sistine Chapel while it was relatively empty. For the first 15 minutes it was quiet, then as more people entered it quickly got louder and the guards started trying to quiet the room. I definitely thought that Michelangelo’s “Last Judgment” was much better than the ceiling. The Sistine Chapel is decorated so that it displays the major epochs in Christianity. The left wall depicts the time of the Law, when Moses brought the Jews out of Egypt. The right side wall depicts the time of Christ, his birth, baptism and life. Finally the back wall depicts the time immediately following Christ. The ceiling depicts the epoch before the law, such as the creation of light, the heavens, the creation of Adam (The famous picture of God’s finger touching a man), the creation of Eve, and their fall. Finally the “Last Judgment” depicts the end times where some are saved and others are sent to hell. It is interesting to note that Michelangelo depicted some of his friends as going to heaven, and his enemies in hell.
Leaving the Sistine Chapel, Giuseppe wanted to see the Egyptian rooms and the Raphael Rooms. After asking one of the guards where to find the Raphael rooms, he let us through a restricted area and took us to the Egyptian rooms, then showing the way to the Raphael rooms. We found the Egyptian rooms to be rather disappointing, but walked through them twice as we tried to find the Raphael rooms. It is not well marked, so it took a while, but once we found the rooms we walked through leisurely. The Raphael rooms are amazing and very well done. Gashwin’s favorite piece is the “Disputation of the Sacrament,” while I quite liked the “Freedom of Peter from the Prison,” I don’t know why…
We then walked through the Borghese apartments, giving a security guard a good laugh as we asked where they were and he responded, “You are in them.” Then we returned to the Sistene Chapel, where it was now packed tight with over 200 people. The guards were shouting at people to be quiet and yelling at people taking photos.
Giuseppe and I were quite finished and decided to leave. As we walked down the stairway to leave, a group of English speaking people tried to reenter the museum from the exit. Apparently, they did not know that they were leaving the museum and wanted to go back in. At this the guard would not have it and said they could not reenter. The man kept arguing shouting, “Show me one sign that says this is the exit. It is not marked at all!!!” At which the guard pointed to a sign right next to him. In the meanwhile, another man was trying to reenter, claiming that his wife was still inside and he also didn’t realize that he was leaving. The situation was quite hilarious, so Giuseppe and I watched until it settled out. Ultimately the guard let them in.
We exited the museum into St. Peter’s basilica, which was completely packed as the center of the Basilica was being prepared for the Papal audience on Wednesday. Thus we left, and walked around several tourist shops until we met Gashwin, Elisabetta, and Cristofero by the obelisk at 1PM. We met and grabbed lunch with an American seminarian from the Diocese of Charleston. We ate at a pizzeria and then went to the North American College (where American seminarians study), where we got some amazing panoramic views of Rome. The college is on the top of a giant hill and we were able to get onto the roof.
Castel Sant'Angelo and the Tiber
Leaving the North American College, we did some shopping by the Vatican before going to the US Bishop’s office to pick up our Papal Audience tickets, which was near the Trevi Fountain. We never threw any coins into the fountain. This is Gashwin’s eighth trip to Rome and he has never thrown a coin in; thus I think it is a waste of money. We saw the column of Marcus Aurelius (Piazza Colonna) and then returned to the convent where Cristofero and Elisabetta met us for dinner. Once again the dinner was amazing, a four course meal for 15 euro, but afterwards we were tired and went to bed. Yet again, no time to blog, as we had to pack for Pisa in the morning.
Detail of the Column of Marcus Aurelius in Piazza Colonna