Amidst astonished faces and blissful crowds, here you’ll find some of the most magnificent structures and masterpieces ever created.
Vatican City was established under the terms of the 1929 Lateran Treaty, making it the modern symbol of the Papal States. For more than a thousand years, the Papal States possessed Rome and much of central Italy. But, when Italy was unified in 1861, Pope Pius IX was forced to give up the last of his territorial possessions. Come 1929, Benito Mussolini signed agreements granting the Church special privileges and Pope Pius XI agreed to form the Vatican State.
Under the terms of the Lateran Treaty, the Vatican, also known as the Holy See, was given extraterritorial authority to 28 sites in and around Rome, which includes the basilicas of San Giovanni in Laterano, Santa Maria Maggiore, San Paolo fuori le Mura; the catacombs, and the pope’s summer residence at Castel Gandolfo. Since that time, the Vatican has been an independent state under papal rule.
The Vatican is a treasure trove of special buildings, galleries and shrines. With only 109 acres (44 hectares) within its walls, it can be easily traveled by foot. Leonine walls date way back to 846, when Pope Leo IV had them put up after a series of Saracen raids. Inside the city, you will find 11 must-see Vatican Museums. You’ll walk through 1.2 miles of classical art from ancient Greece to the Renaissance. Impressive sculptures and splendid artifacts line the long illuminated halls of these galleries.
One of the most popular museums is the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, which was founded by Pope Gregory XV. It contains various relics and artworks from the ancient land of Pharaoh, boasting nine rooms of exhibits and sculptures–a proud collection of archeological spectacle.
The Vatican Palace also encompasses the legendary Sistine chapel, which was originally constructed by Pope Eugenius III in the 12th century. This is where you will find some of the most famous masterpieces that are widely considered as the high point of artistic achievement. Leading this list are Michelangelo’s amazingly detailed frescos on the barrel-vaulted ceiling (painted 1508–12), which pictures Adam being brought to life with the touch of the Almighty’s forefinger. Another must-see is the renowned painting of The Last Judgment (1536–41) found at the end.
Nothing can ever prepare you for the breathtaking view, so the gasping and wide-eyed expressions are commonly expected in the faces of the visitors. However, take in mind that taking pictures or talking loudly is not allowed in the Sistine Chapel.
And yet, we are just getting started. You will also bear witness to the beauty of Vatican’s well-known structure that is the Saint Peter’s Basilica. From the turn of the seventeenth century, Michelangelo started working for the renovation of the tiny, dirty church. It was originally designed by Donato Bramante, and later, upon Bramante’s death, by Michelangelo. Now, after centuries of existence, St. Peter’s Basilica is the largest Christian church on the planet. No matter how many times you cross the threshold of this massive construction, the experience will never cease to be unbelievable.
The center of the Catholic world, this magnificent basilica also has an awe-inspiring exterior that suits its grand architecture. This place is extremely huge and it’s hard to digest the whole scene in just one look.
The rays of the sun filter through high dome windows, landing briefly on the heads of awestruck tourists. St Peter’s throne hovers mystically as if floating in mid-air, crowned with Bernini’s gilded rays and haloed in golden light. Stationed by the door is Michelangelo’s magnificent Pietà, the unfinished sculpture of the Madonna cradling her lost son with such passionate grief. Visitors could not help but stop and marvel at this statue; the expression on their faces can only be described as being overwhelmed with an intense emotional interest.
Saint Peter’s Square
Saint Peter’s Square, just like the rest of Vatican City, is very famous around the world. This is where the pope gives speeches and public masses. The most recent monumental event that took place here was when Pope Benedict XVI gave an emotional farewell to 150,000 pilgrims on the eve of his historic resignation.
To receive a blessing from the Pope at close range, you’ll need to arrive in the square well before his noon appearance on Sunday.
When visiting Saint Peter’s Square, it is best to go during the late afternoon, when the sunlight casts different shadows through the four rows of the Doric columns. It’s one of the most majestic views to this Bernini masterpiece.
Saint Peter’s Dome
Save your breath for one last long gasp at Michelangelo’s masterpiece at the St. Peter’s Dome. The Dome can be reached via a side door to the right of the Basilica, followed by a creaky elevator ride, and a narrow, slippery 320-step climb up a winding staircase. Though the journey may be tiring, this entire endeavor is worth your time as the view from the top is simply incredible. You will not help but feel a complete sense of satisfaction as you see the distant hills of Rome covered with a warm gold sprinkle, impending arrival of the sunset.
A Moment of Serenity
The Vatican lifestyle is vitally religious, having at least one billion Catholic followers and many of its nine hundred or so residents as dignitaries, priests and nuns. In addition to this, they live alongside Jerusalem and Mecca, two of the most important religious cities in the world. As an independent state, the Vatican has its own postal service, currency, newspaper, radio station and army. They have what they call the Swiss Guards Corps (Corpo della Guardia Svizzera) dressed in very colorful clothing, similar to the uniforms worn by Renaissance era soldiers. They were founded in 1506 by Julius II to defend the Papal States against invading armies. Today, you can find them posted at entrances to the Vatican City to protect the pope and to provide security.
The Vatican has a unique, noncommercial economy commonly known as “Peter’s Pence.” It is supported financially by contributions from Roman Catholics throughout the world. Vatican has euro as its sole currency, sharing it with 23 other countries that use this common European money. The Vatican euro is the rarest in circulation among the European countries, so spend it wisely!
Apart from being a seat of religion and artistry, the Vatican is also home to heavenly food and delicacies. The taste can be summed up as fresh and summery. There are grotto wine bars just outside the Vatican’s walls, offering Lazio wines, artisanal beer and platters of cheese and charcuterie fit for a cardinal. Their wine is best paired with their creamy pasta sauces, a particularly famous mix in their culture. You have to savor the combination of their environment and food for a completely unique experience.
Despite the large crowds wandering in the streets of Vatican, you can still feel the peaceful atmosphere that only this place can provide. Although it is a small area, it offers a sense of coziness and comfort to the people. Packed with priceless splendors and a divine calm, this place is perfect for a one of a kind journey to your inner spiritual self.
A Most Blessed Experience
The spiritual heart of Catholicism, Vatican City most certainly knows how to amaze its spectators. When the skies turn darker and the night falls all throughout the city, it would feel like a new adventure is just waiting for you to uncover. If the day time experience gave a feeling of tranquility, then the night life of the city would absolutely fill you with an ecstatic pleasure.
Seeing the night view of St. Peter’s Cathedral is like looking at an otherworldly picture. It’s so surreal and almost dream-like that you would wish that you can stay longer. Regardless of one’s faith, the archeological wonders and delightful voyage in the city is well worth the time and effort. It’s so hard to believe that there are so many riches and treasures in one place. The everlasting city is truly magical, so your visit here is definitely an affair to remember.