Vatican City

[Sept 13, 2007]

Our next stop after the Piazza di Spagna was somewhere that is too far to walk. So we took the Metrebus RomaRome’s underground train system.

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Metrebus Roma tickets

It was quite interesting. The metro fare here is not charged based on how many stations you travel, but how long you spend traveling. 1 Euro for 75 minutes…

So we took the train. Where to? Well, to the world’s smallest country, to the holiest place on Earth for more than 1.5 billion Roman Catholics around the world.

Yes, to Vatican City [Stato della Città del Vaticano]!

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Entrance to the city

You wonder how small this city-country is, don’t you? Well, there you go…

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The entire country, captured in one photograph

The city is made up of St Peter’s Square [Piazza San Pietro], surrounded by a few buildings, and that’s it!

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Bernini’s fountain and the Obelisk

Vatican City is ruled by the Bishop of Rome, the Pope. Since a long time ago, the Popes have all resided in the Apostolic Palace [Palazzo Apostolico] in this city. But we’re not here to visit the palace, it is off limits for civilians like us anyway. We’re here to visit the largest and greatest church of all Christendom, the Saint Peter’s Basilica [Basilica di San Pietro].

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Saint Peter’s Basilica

And on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it!” Jesus said to Peter. Or at least that’s what the Bible says. The name Peter is derived from the word “Petra”, which means “rock” in Greek. Peter means rock, rock means Peter. And so the Roman Catholics built a church over Saint Peter’s tomb, the biggest church in the world!

I did mention this is the holiest place on Earth for more than 1.5 billion people in the world, didn’t I? On top of that, this city is also incredibly famous for everyone else as a tourist attraction. So you can imagine the number of visitors who come here every day.

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The queue is insanely long!

Well, although the queue is long, it is a constantly moving queue, so it would probably take just 30 minutes for you to get to the entrance of the basilica.

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Look at all these people!

We also spotted someone interesting while being in queue..

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World famous Swiss Guard

The Swiss Guards are like the bodyguards for the Pope. They are recruited among the Catholics in the Swiss military and each one of them have to go through a very rigorous training and selection criteria. It is a very prestigious role.

Just before we entered the basilica, we spotted a very interesting and grand looking door right next to the entrance.

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The Holy Door

This door is locked from the inside and cannot be opened from the outside. It is only opened on Jubilee years, which are special years for universal pardon of sins, so that pilgrims can enter and gain the pardons. Apparently, this year happens on an average of once every 25 years or so.

Anyway, the door was locked when I was there, and I am not a Christian Catholic anyway, so… time to enter the basilica…

It is a very beautiful church, but since I am no Christian Catholic, I don’t know much about the significance of all the drawings and patterns and statues, so I will just bombard you all with pictures…

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The dome

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Oh, this cordoned off area is quite interesting. See those patterns on the floor? They are symbols of all the major Catholic churches all around the world. How this works is that you measure from the basilica’s entrance to the symbol of a specific church, and that is the entire length of that particular church. In other words, this is an indication that Saint Peter’s Basilica is indeed the largest, and shows you how much larger it is compared to other churches.

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St Longinus by Bernini
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St Helena by Andrea Bolgi

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This was as far as we were allowed to go in the Basilica. “And on this rock, I will build my church“, most Catholics believe the rock means Saint Peter, and they basically built this Basilica around Saint Peter’s tomb. The actual tomb is beyond this staircase leading down from here.

So, we were done touring the basilica. There is one more thing that you can do in Vatican City. You can go to the Vatican City post office and send yourselves (or your loved ones) post cards. Apparently, post cards from the Vatican City is a very popular souvenir.

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And then it was time to end our tour of the Vatican City.

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Well, the crowds here are insanely large. But it is a remarkably beautiful place to visit. I am not a Christian Catholic, and I am able to admire the beauty of the basilica. I believe it will be more so for Christians Catholics, who (I think) would better understand all the intricate patterns and elaborate statues and artworks here.

28 Comments

  1. I’m so behind on blog reading, but ha! I guess this is the answer to the world’s smallest country! I’m looking forward to visiting this for the beauty and architecture (as I’m not religious).

    • I doubt very many people who visit Vatican City on normal days are religious anyway LOL! 😀

  2. It’s been forever since I’ve been back there. I remember staring in awe at the queue thinking we’ll be here all day long. But I was surprised with how fast it went.

    • My sentiments exactly! I was really impressed with how fast we were able to enter the basilica given how long the queue was!

  3. Beautiful shots of beautiful architecture. Large crowds, but it looks so orderly. Everyone well behaved, and you were well behaved too. No pushing and shoving 😀

    I suppose this is a place where no food and drink are allowed.

    • LOL! They have been wearing that for more than 100 years, it is their symbol, so they stick to it I suppose..

  4. ah….the Pope lives there…..anyway the cathedral (or is it church?) is so grandeur, superb, nice, impressive…etc etc whatever words that can be used to describe it…And i would like to be there to see the architecture.

    • I suppose it is a cathedral, since the Pope is also the bishop of Rome. It really is a very interesting place, this Vatican City. 🙂

  5. Thanks for the tour to Vatican city. I guess it’s every Catholic’s dream to be able to visit this place one day….and yes, there’s a difference between Christians and Catholics. You can say that all Catholics are Christians but not all Christians are Catholics.

  6. This place is very beautiful like a city by itself with their own law and courts, I heard.
    My parents went below the church to see the remains and tomb during a crowded day some 25 years ago and loved it. I guess you went there too.
    I was confused a bit when you say about being a place for Christians as someone tried to correct me once that Catholics and Christians are different, so I should not say that Catholics come under the Christian category. Anyway, that fella told me that Vatican City where the pope lives, is built by Roman Catholics. Please advise me RealGuru..!

    • When I went, we were not allowed to go below to see the tomb, the staircase was cordoned off from the public.

      I am not very sure how this works, but as far as I know, there are two main branch of Christianity, the Roman Catholics and the Protestants. They all think they are true Christians and the other side are deviants and heretics. Probably that someone who told you Catholics are not Christians is a Protestant himself, I don’t know. I also don’t know how exactly are they different, I think Protestants are the newer variation that appear in the 15th century, which claim Catholics are not true followers of the Jewish Christ as they have been corrupted by the Romans. That’s what I know, but I might be wrong…

  7. Did you meet the Pope? I saw a photograph in a shop in Seoul – the lady owner went to the Vatican and met the Pope face to face…and the photograph showed her crying in front of him. She said she was so so so happy that she just broke down and cried out loud!!! What emotions!

    • Of course not, we went there as tourists, not as pilgrims. I don’t think I will cry anyway even if I meet the Pope. I’m not religiously attached to him, to me he is just another very famous person in the world…

  8. Our tour went there too but we did not take the metro, we went on the tour bus. I did not know so much information as you did.

    • Well, these extra information, mostly from my readings and not from listening to Paul LOL! 😛

  9. yeah, we went to Vatican City, and i guess all who went to Rome will have also gone to Vatican City lah.. but another bad news to me was, the St Peter’s Basilica, it was under restoration and the front part was covered.. and the local guide was also not a friendly man to guys, it wasn’t a pleasant trip for me when in Rome and Vatican City..

  10. I’ve also been to the Vatican City… like 15 years ago? Don’t remember much, so your pictures refreshed my memory 😀

    Did you eat in Italy, or did you go to another country after visiting the Vatican City? 😛

    • Well, I had a gelato cone in Rome for lunch if that counts. Dinner was crappy Chinese dinner 🙁

  11. OMG, I really like the architecture inside. 30 for the queue actually is not bad….not more than one hour I guess is still fine for me.

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