The Vatican City is a city-state within Rome. It is the home of the Pope. The Roman Catholic Church is based here. A UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a country in itself, issuing its own passport, stamps, and currency. With an area of 0.44 square kilometers, Vatican is the smallest country in Europe. Only about 1000 people live here. The Vatican also has its own flag and anthem. In 1970, Pope Paul VI dissolved the armed forces retaining only the Swiss Guard that wears a colorful uniform, designed by Michelangelo.
Don’t miss the incredible Vatican Museums and the St. Peter’s Basilica, the most treasured sights in Rome. The Museums house ancient Roman sculptures and Renaissance frescoes. Visit the Sistine Chapel to look at Michelangelo’s ceiling, a once-in-a-lifetime experience you are unlikely to forget ever.
At the Vatican Museums, see the works of Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Raphael, Greek and Roman works of art, antiquities from Egypt including mummies, the fascinating Gallery of Maps. You will be left staring at the frescos of the Sistine Chapel, admiring the work of Michelangelo. St Peter’s Basilica is at the center. This is the world’s largest religious building, the work of Michelangelo, Maderno, Bernini, Raphael, and Bramante.
The Vatican City – Quick Facts
|Vatican City||Independent country within Rome with its own passport, stamps, flag and anthem.|
|Roman Catholic Church||Headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church. Home of the Pope.|
|Vatican Museums||Art museum inside the Vatican City. Displays arts from the collection of the Popes. The world’s most precious renaissance art and Roman sculptures.|
|Sistine Chapel||A chapel in Apostolic Palace, the Pope’s official residence. Priceless works of art. The work of Michelangelo.|
|St Peter’s Basilica||The world’s largest religious building.|
When the Pope is in Rome, he grants a public audience on Wednesdays. Apply in advance from 9 AM to 1 PM to the Prefettura della Casa Pntificia. Written recommendation from a parish priest helps.
St. Peter’s Square, Vatican City
The St. Peter’s Square is an architectural masterpiece, which was created between 1656 and 1667 by Bernini. The two semicircles of the colonnade, which adorn the square and frame the façade of the basilica, are both made of 4 rows of columns. They are surmounted by statues of saints and the coats of arms of Alessandro VII.
- There is an obelisk at the center of the square. This was brought from Heliopolis in Egypt in 37 by order of Caligula. It was erected here in 1585 on the initiative of Sixtus V by Domenico Fontana.
- At the top is a relic of the Holy Cross.
- Two circular stones between the 17C fountains and the obelisk mark the focal points of the ellipse formed by the Piazza.
- Bernini achieved this perspective by keeping equal intervals between the columns.
St. Peter’s Basilica
Constaine, the first Christian Emperor, decided in AD 324 to build a basilica on the site where St. Peter was buried after he was martyred in Nero’s circus.
- The Vatican Grottoes, two levels below the Basilica is the big underground graveyard with the tombs of 91 Popes.
- Vatican Necropolis is below this level. St Peter’s Tomb is located here. In the Basilica, see Michelangelo’s famous Pieta, within a bulletproof glass. This was made from just one marble slab. Pieta is the only piece Michelangelo signed.
- See the 140 statues of saints in the courtyard outside the Basilica. Each of these statues is 3.2 meters tall.
The museums, a must-visit, contain about 70,000 works, but only 20,000 of them are on display. Here’s what you must see in the Vatican Museum –
- The 18 rooms of Pinacoteca with paintings from the Medieval Age to the 19th century.
- 12 rooms in the Pio Clementino
- The Egyptian Museum with its 9 rooms
- The stunning Gallery of Maps
- Pavilion of Coaches with cars, coaches, and sedan chairs.
- The incredible Raphael’s Rooms, the main attraction.
- The Helical Staircase
Click this link to visit the official website of the Vatican Museums.
A former private apartment of Pope Julius II. Visit to see the frescoes of Raphael. See the 4 frescos at Stanza della Segnatura that represent Philosophy, Theology, Law, and Poetry. A must-visit. Also, see the Room of Heliodorus or Stanza di Eliodoro.
Sistine Chapel is the shining star of the Vatican. It is a part of the Vatican Museums tour. The highlights include,
- Michelangelo’s stunning fresco – The Creation of Adam
- Bramante’s Pinecone Courtyard, Gallery of the Maps, and Raphael’s Rooms.
The huge room in the chapel is 13.4 meters wide and 40.23 meters long. It reaches a height of 20.7 meters. There is polychrome marble on the floor, a gallery, an altar, and marbled screens.
There are 9 panels in the ceiling that show the Creation of the World, the Expulsion of Adam and Eve, and tell the Story of Noah. The creation of Adam is the most famous. Here you can see the famous scene of God touching the fingertip of Adam to give him life. Eve and Adam taking the forbidden apple, and their eventual expulsion from the Garden of Eden is also shown in detail. See the images of prophets painted by Michelangelo at the sides of these central panels.