Sunday, March 28, 2010

Vatican Museums, the Sobieski Room, Rapheal's Rooms, the Sistine Chapel, the Spanish Steps at Night

Its a week after getting back from Europe...I've adjusted back to Eastern Standard time, even with Daylight Savings Time, recovered from my Traveller's Cold that I likely picked up on the 9 1/2 hour flight from Rome to Philadelphia, and now I'm finishing up my blog from the last two days of Rome...which takes some time as they were VERY full! Here's Thursday, the 18th of March, our second to last day of Rome.

Today we had a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, including Rapheal's Rooms and the Sistine Chapel. The guided tour was great as this place is massive, and doing it on your own would be daunting. Courtney and I also felt that having guided tours on the last three days of our trip was nice because by this time, at the end of our two week whirlwind tour of Europe, we didn't have the energy to do the research on our own! So being led around and literally guided to the most important sites of Rome was extremely helpful. To further prove the point, even with the guided tour, we figured out that we walked about 6 miles on this day.

Note the face on this sculpture below...Michaelangelo used this face as the model for his painting of Jesus Christ in the Sistine Chapel. Before this sculptor, faces on statues had very little emotion depicted. During this time period, this sculptor and others developed the methods to portray emotions and depth to facial expressions...prior to that most statues looked angelic with soft, serene faces. This body, with missing arms and legs, was used by Michealangelo as the model for the torso of Jesus Christ in the Sistine Chapel paintings. It was thought to be the picture of perfection in that time period as it managed to capture the human form at its best. Our guide told us that when works of art such as this are found with missing pieces, it is proper to leave them as they are rather than attempt to restore them. We saw many examples of the way different civilizations had tried to "fix" or change ancient sculptures, one example being the "fig leaves" that were put in place of a man's private parts. It was certainly funny to see these massive, muscular statues of male figures, true works of art, then you look down and see these little fig leaves that obviously were placed much later on in history. It just didn't make any sense.

No, this isn't the Pantheon, we'll see that tomorrow, this is just a regular old room in the Vatican Museums. The museums have over 2000 rooms, and all of the ones we saw were decorated to highest degree possible. My pictures won't do it justice, but I think our guide said something to the effect that if you spent one minute on every statue, sculpture, painting and tapestry in the Vatican museums, you would be in there for 12 years.

This is a bathtub. Carved out of one piece of stone, the material that it is made out of is as valuable as diamond.

The following pictures are of a long hallway filled with maps of the different states that now make up Italy. The maps are said to be 85% accurate, including the topography. All of this was done be a man hired to go to all of these places and record this information from the ground, Ignazio Danti, in the 1500's. No planes, no satellites, no cameras. And they say if you pull up Google Earth it looks exactly the same.

The ceiling...

Map of Sicily...

The following pictures are of the Sobieski Room. For those of you reading this that don't know, my mother's maiden name is Sobieski, and our family lineage can be traced back to King John III Sobieski, who is depicted in a painting by a Polish painter Jean Matejko, in his victory over the Turks in Vienna in 1683. A facinating political and military leader (read more at he was closely aligned with the Holy Roman
Emporer Pope Innocent XI, which is why he has a room dedicated to him in the Vatican (usually you need to be a Saint for that) and his niece is buried in St. Peter's Basilica and has a chapel there (again, usually only Popes and Saints received that recognition).
It was neat, I had told Courtney about the "Sobieski Room" not realizing that we'd get to see it (again, 2000 rooms in the Vatican) and when our tour guide said, "This is the Sobieski Room" and Courtney and I gasped, the tour guide said, "Oh are you familiar with him?" I said, "I'm related to him!" That was fun. =)

A directional sign below makes you realize you are in the midst of greatness...Raphael, Michalangelo...

An interesting paining on one of the ceilings in Rapheal's Rooms, but not actually painted by Rapheal, "The Triumph of Christianity" over Paganism (see the fallen statue broken on the ground in front of the cross)

One of Rapheal's most famous paintings, "The School of Athens" where Rapheal depicted the great thinkers of ancient time...Plato, Aristotle, and of his time...including Michealangelo, Ptolomy, and Homer.

Next we got to see the Sistine Chapel. As part of our tour, we learned all about the Sistine Chapel, and what Michealangelo depicted in each of his paintings there in his masterpiece on the ceiling. It would take an hour to go into it, so I won' just have to go and see it for yourself...literally as you can't take pictures in the Sistine Chapel!! =) Worth a trip to Rome if you're wondering. This is also the room, depicted in movies, where the Cardinals meet to elect the new Pope when a Pope dies, known as the Conclave. We were shown the window where they release the smoke when a new Pope is chosen. They also still use the Chapel for services, and there are doors (obviously closed off) that lead to the Pope's private apartments.

Our guide said this bronze door is only opened every twenty years or so, at which time you can walk through it and be absolved of all of your sins...again, worth a trip back to Rome I think!

St Peter's Basilica from the outside...

A close up of the Balcony where the Pope comes out on holidays...he also does weekly services.

Unfortunately, they were closing St. Peter's Basilica unexpectedly, for a private service, so we did not get to go in. However, we knew we'd back in the area the next day as our "Angels and Demons" tour would be ending near by. So we mailed our postcards from the Vatican Post office (remember the Vatican is it's own country, so we thought it'd be fun to mail a postcard from the sixth
country on our journey!) and left Vatican City.

On our walk home to the hotel, we happened upon the Spanish Steps again, and this spectacular view of the sunset and St. Peter's Basilica in the background with a sliver of the moon overhead...imagine Italian music playing in the backround, the balcony you can see on the right is a cafe overlooking the Spanish steps where people are enjoying Italian cuisine...Priceless!

1 comment:

  1. Your blog helps me with information that I am researching for my pictures taken at Vatican Museum last month. Thanks for sharing.