Rome, Italy; Day 5

Today was our last full day in Rome (for this trip anyway). We had left today open in terms of planning. We had figured that there might be something that we might want to return to or add to our Roma list so it was easy to decide to head back to St. Peter’s Basilica.

We went early hoping to beat the crowds and we did but only by about 15 minutes. A 10 minute entry wait when we joined the line grew to 20 or 30 minutes by the time we got through the security check.

We again looked to Rick Steves’ Audioguide to give us all a little insight to this impressive monument. We started with a description of the square and then quickly headed into the Basilica.

As we entered the outer Atrium we started to get a better sense for the scale of this church – the largest in the world. Having just been in the very large Seville Cathedral less than a week ago it’s grandeur was dwarfed by St. Peter’s.

Outside on the right of the main entrance is the Holy Door which is cemented from the other side and typically only opened every 25 years. It is covered in detailed golden relief images of Christianity. It was but a preview of what we would find inside.

As we entered the back of the church and peered up the length of the nave we were speechless except for ‘woah’ which got stuck on repeat in our brains, perhaps because every visitor repeated it as they stepped in. It stretches 270 feet long and is an open space from the door to the altar. Simply spectacular.

Nave in St. Peter’s Basilica

To the immediate right is Michelangelo’s Pietà – one of the most famous examples of Renaissance sculpture and the only work he ever signed. It is hard to believe how much life he could coax from a block of marble but it is incredibly impactful to see in person.

Underneath the Altar is St. Peter’s Tomb. Above the Altar is a gigantic cover or baldachin. It is made of bronze, some of which was ‘recycled’ from the portico of the Pantheon. The twisted columns are modeled after the columns on the ‘Old St. Peter’s’ built in the 4th Century.

As you approach the altar, your gaze travels up…and up…and up almost 450 feet to Michelangelo’s dome – still the largest in the world.

Gazing at the dome

We could go on and on as St. Peter’s is astounding. There are a number of virtual tours online if you want to get a taste of it yourselves.

We wandered around for quite a while and then Tiffany, Suaram and CreeperPuppy decided to scale the dome itself.

On the way up, got to make a quick detour into the inside of the dome at the base. It helped put the scale into perspective to see the people so very small below us.

We also learned none of the paintings around the walls are paintings – they would get too damaged – so they are detailed mosaics where each tile is the size of a pinky nail.

Mosaic from the base of the dome

We took an elevator to skip the first 200 steps, but the last 300 we had to cover on foot. As we ascended, the walls started curving inward in the shape of the dome which you can see in the picture below. That was a new experience.

Flat floor, dome-shaped walls

Once we arrived at the top, it was a beautiful blue sky over Rome as far as the eye could see.

After we left St. Peter’s, we walked back along the Tiber River. It was a nice change of scenery from the city streets, particularly during the heat of the day.

We spent the afternoon and evening in the neighborhood at our apartment and out amongst the many sidewalk cafes, other tourists and even some locals. It cools off very nicely in the evenings and we enjoyed it all the way to bedtime.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: