Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum

Where the Vatican gets you, so far as money is concerned, is the Sistine Chapel. I would estimate that the Sistine Chapel is, easily, the thing most people want to see in Vatican City, as it has images that some of the most beautiful and recognizable among any in Rome. I mean, that ceiling is something else, and the folks that run Catholicism aren’t stupid. They know a revenue opportunity when they see one.

So, what did they do? Well, even though the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica are right beside one another, they’ve set up a system where you have to enter the Vatican Museum to see the Sistine Chapel, and it costs 14 euro per person to enter the Vatican Museum. Also, because you are so far from the Sistine Chapel once you enter the Vatican Museum, you have to walk half-way across Vatican City, twice, to get back and forth from the Sistine Chapel.

vatican_map

What’s the good news? Well, for one, it’s worth it. Also, while you are trapped in the Vatican museum, the other exhibits are pretty good and worth seeing, and the cafeteria isn’t a rip off. All in all, it is still a must-do when you are in the area, but just try to put all the pointless walking out of your mind. At least you are walking down beautiful (but extremely long) corridors that look like this:

538_vatican_ceiling

Once you get to the Sistine Chapel, the hallway narrows and you have to kinda squeeze through a little door to make it inside. Once there, you aren’t supposed to (1) say anything or (2) take pictures. However, everyone there (and it is usually standing room only) is doing both of those things, just about has loud and fast as they can.

The tourist-factor aside, the ceiling and walls (and just general architecture of the place) are amazing.

540_vatican_sistine_ceiling

We visited in 2009, a few years beyond a reconditioning of Michelangelo’s masterpiece, and the colors were so vibrant, so alive, the painting really spoke to you, even with the tourist throng all around and the ushers coming in ever few minutes and yelling, “Silencio!”

543_vatican_sistine_adam_god

The paintings extend down to the walls from the ceiling, with some characters in one painting bleeding over into another scene. The optical illusions must have taken years to perfect.

544_vatican_sistine_window_ceiling

Outside, we found one of those wonderful, free, clean water spigots that are located all over Rome. While most folks just filled up their water bottles, I drank the cool water straight from the source. Yum!

554_vatican_truk_drinks

We went to several very good exhibits and ate lunch there, and finally, we were ready to move on and see some more of Rome. The stairs as you leave the Vatican Museum were a final treat though. Quite trippy going down…

555_vatican_exit_stairs_down

I really enjoyed the figurines on the stairwell railing.

558_vatican_staircase_figures

Next up, we headed back into Rome and across the city.

It’s Holy, See?

We only had one full day in Rome, and we were determined to make the most of it. One place that seemed like it would provide a lot of bang for the buck is the Vatican, so we took the metro from the train station and zoomed under the city to the doorstep of the Vatican Museum.

As you are probably aware, the Vatican is a city within a city. Rome completely surrounds it, and while there is no document check to move from Rome to the Vatican, you can certainly feel the difference. Many buildings in the Vatican are visible from Rome. This is the view of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Ponte Sant’ Angelo.

566_rome_bridge_st_peters

Once you enter St. Peter’s Square, the immensity of the place really hits you. So much of Rome is made up of tiny little streets that crash into each other in seemingly random ways. It can be like a jungle, where you can’t see any landmarks and you aren’t sure which way is north or, even, which way you came from, if you turn around.

This is not a problem in St. Peter’s Square. The obelisk and fountain, plus the statues that surround the place, will help to remind you exactly where you are. And, if you get lost, some helpful (and colorful) Vatican guards will gladly show you the way.

522_vatican_obelisk_fountain 524_vatican_guards

The front of St. Peter’s Basilica also gives a little foreshadowing of how big it will be in side. Those little specks at the bottom of this picture are people trying to get in the main entrance.

525_vatican_st_peters_front

Inside, you’ll find a lot of interesting stuff, including a dead pope.

528_vatican_dead_pope

Katherine got to touch the foot of St. Peter’s statue (a traditional Catholic ritual), while I gazed away at the amazing dome above it all.

530_vatican_kath_touches_foot 532_vatican_st_peters_dome_inside

When I turned off the flash and cranked up the exposure, I got a nice shot of light coming in the center of the dome.

536_vatican_st_peters_dome_light

St. Peter’s Basilica is free to visit, but be aware that there is a very strict dress code. No shorts are allowed, or dresses higher than the knee, or any shirt that exposes the shoulders or is too revealing. We saw several folks pointlessly arguing with the Vatican guards, seeking entrance when they were wearing totally appropriate clothes for a 41 degree Celsius day in Rome that didn’t meet the Vatican standards. Some of these folks were pretty angry, so be sure to dress appropriately, if you don’t want to make a quick trip back to the hotel to change.