Monday, May 30, 2005

Eternal City Day 2

Day 2 (see all pictures)
I forgot that towards the end of Day 1, we went to the church of Santa Susanna, which is the "American" church in Rome. The reason was to pick up our tickets for the Wednesday papal audience. We had signed up for the tickets through their web site ahead of time. When we got there, it turns out they really didn't seem to have a list with our names on it from the web site. However, it appeared they were just giving the tickets away to anyone who came by, so we picked two up and left.

We took the subway to get near the Vatican, and then walked into the main plaza area. There were lots of people heading in that direction. Along the way we stopped and bought a few roasaries to get blessed in the papal audience. (Unfortunately, the one I got has an odd number of beads and I don't understnad why).

Finally, to get in to the St. Peter's square, you had to go through some metal detectors that looked like 1970s technology.

We did get to see the pope -- from afar. First he came out in his little PopeMobile(TM) and drove through the crowd. Had we understood this ahead of time, we could have sat much closer to where we could have seen him close up. Then he went up front, and we listed to the general audience. There was a pslam and reflection in Italian, then he greeted people from various countries in many different languages. He really did sound like he was not doing so well by then, but it was still special to get to see the pope.

After this, we headed over to the Vatican Museums, the highlight of which was seeing the Sistene Chapel. The museums were huge, of course, but I was surprised overall at how much of it was sculptures. The Sistene Chapel was amazing -- it was so colorful -- almost like a cartoon. We weren't allowed to take pictures in there (although there were a lot of people sneaking shots), but I think it would have been hard to get the feel for it through pictures anyway. The only thing I was dissapointed about was that it was very crowded in there, and there were a lot of people not being all that repectful. (Although there were museum staff going around telling people to be quiet).

After that we headed over to tour St. Peter's Basilica. We spent a lot of time wandering around it -- seeing the Pieta, the statue of St. Peter (that has his foot worn down from everyone rubbing it -- it's encouraged), the central main altar, and the on-display preserved body of Pope John XXIII. There are about 30 altars within the basilica, and it appeared that Mass was being said somewhere in it at all times.

A few of the side chapels were being restored, and we thought it was funny there was a sign in front of one of them in Italian that (roughly) said: "The Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin. The dome is being restored with the support of... the Lottery"

After leaving the basilica, we got some pictures of the Swiss Guard (who looked like jesters with spears) and visited the Vatican bookstore.

We then walked down to Castel San Angelo, which really wasn't all that interesting.

see all pictures for Day 2

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