This was the day where we would dedicate our time to Rome, and every landmark that establishes its identity. Of course we couldn’t start that until after a fresh cup of coffee.
A satisfying breakfast indeed. As well as a perfect opportunity to practice some Italian (broken as it was). The people were very friendly, and encouraged our efforts. Afterwards, it was time to hop on the bus that would take us to our next location, the Vatican.
I visited the Vatican as a student, only it was at night and less crowded. But all the same, I was excited to see this place again.
Before we entered the vast halls and galleries, we were briefed on what we would see within the Sistine Chapel at the very end of the tour, as talking was highly discouraged in such a sacred place. Much of the history I was familiar with. But as our guide discussed these details, I noticed a familiar image.
In the above image is a quick gesture of the Papal crest, however it appears to have what looks like the Medici crest embedded in it surrounded by two angels. I soon came to find out, courtesy of our tour guide, that various Popes request what their crest should appear with.
Moving on to the rest of the galleries, we spotted many statues and tapestries, as well as many crowds. I nearly got separated from the group once or twice, but managed to keep up.
Of course, we stopped in one of the most famous parts of the gallery to take a look at Raphael’s School of Athens. Something new I learned today was that the room this was in used to be a Library for the Pope, hence the high amount of scholars in each fresco. When I came a few years back, I had a bit of an obsession with Dante Alighieri, the author of the Divine Comedy, and was very inspired by his work. This time around, I took time to capture his image in a quick gesture.
In the Sistine chapel, there must be silence and no photography. This was something I took for granted the last time I came here. As I stared up at the years worth of frescos the great Michelangelo toiled at, I couldn’t help but gain a new appreciation for his work. I took my sketchbook out and studied the first panel, where God spoke the World into being from nothing.
After the Sistine Chapel, there was nowhere to go, but Saint Peter’s Basilica. Seeing more of Michelangelo’s work gave me a better appreciation for the artist. He truly was a master sculptor based on what I noted of his art style and technique when handling form and the human figure.
The most intriguing part about St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican isn’t just the fact that it is the heart of Roman Catholicism today. Sometime, long ago, a Jewish man, who was close to Jesus himself, came to the heart of the Roman Empire and made more disciples in a place far from home. This place was probably once someone’s home where they would gather to worship even though later they would be persecuted. It was once a small gathering of friends, family and neighbors that grew into this large colossus that would be Christianity. Much of the church’s history started here, what is now one of the greatest centers of worship.
After our time in the Vatican came to an end, it was time for us to travel back in time, when the Roman Empire was the greatest power in the world, reaching throughout Europe and a little into Persia and maybe India.
Our journey back in time took us to the Forum, where we navigated through ruins of a once powerful empire. Seeing ruins at first was nothing extraordinary, until the large ones occupied the space. There was something surreal about seeing colossal empty walls, arches and half domes standing empty as it was once a great fortress of meeting point of powerful minds and rulers. Fascinating enough was seeing how the church in the past repurposed these ancient monuments, adding layers to its history until present day.
To end our tour, we wandered the grounds of the Colosseum, a place once of gleeful entertainment and bloodshed. Once again, walking through these ruins was surreal, though I had been there before. We walked beneath what used to be marble seating. We looked into an empty space where a sand covered floor used to be. And we looked through empty arches where statues of important beings used to guard. At the end, our guide answered another explorer’s question by explaining what contributed to the fall of the Roman Empire. One reason was that they became too big. Another was that the men and women the slaughtered soon became part of their Empire. Another was the adoption of Christianity as their main religion (and as they were an empire of war, it didn’t suit up to what Christianity’s core beliefs were).
After our long day of touring, we freshened up in our hotel room, enjoying some coffee and resting. There was one last thing I absolutely wanted to see in Rome that I didn’t get to see the last time.
Nothing to kill your trip than visiting a landmark under construction, right? I remember we threw coins over the fence hoping our wishes would come true (being the naive students we were. We probably gave them more clean up). So as you can image, we were disappointed, and every photo I had seen of friends and classmates touring Rome posing with a flowing Trevi Fountain behind them, I was jealous of. How I wish I had seen it in its full glory.
But tonight, I had the chance…
… it was worth it.