Breathtaking and neck breaking

Thursday, Oct. 21

Another day in Rome, another group tour.

Again, we figured there was no point in lining up to stare at art we didn’t understand.

So we paid 45 Euros each for the guided tour. It was painful handing over the cash, but it was worth every penny.

(If you’re going to take a tour of the Vatican, make sure you don’t buy the first one offered to you. The closer you get to the building, the cheaper the tours.)

Considering there are so many tourism companies to choose from, we picked the one with the American guide. We wanted to understand what was being said.

I guess in Italy, South America counts as America because our guide was from Brazil.

Anyway, we ventured through the Vatican Museum for nearly three hours.

We skipped the wait to enter the museum and St. Peter’s Basilica – the lines were both over two hours long.

Inside the museum, we were taken through the most “important” parts. We were given a fun and brief history lesson about Vatican City, the museum archives, sculptures we would have otherwise passed, and the Sistine Chapel.

Some of these things you need to see to truly appreciate. While you can take pictures in some parts of the museum, it’s forbidden in the chapel as it deteriorates the images. (Those who try have their photos deleted and are escorted out.)

While in the chapel, we spent about 40 minutes craning our necks upwards, trying to spot the points we were taught just minutes before. It was dizzying, but beautiful.

Following the chapel we went into St. Peter’s Basilica. It was like walking into a cartoon because it was so unreal.

Fortunately, we could take pictures there. Unfortunately, our tour ended in the chapel, so I have no notes on the basilica – mainly because I was too dumbfounded.

Here are some of the amazing things we learned about Vatican City, the museum and the Sistine chapel:

Vatican City

– There are 900 people living in Vatican City State – the smallest country in the world. Seven hundred are male, 200 are female. There are also 110 Swiss Guards.

– The Swiss were chosen to protect the area because their army was the most powerful and neutral in the world. The Swiss Guard is trained in over 600 weapons. Its uniforms are thought to have been designed by Michelangelo.

– Vatican City has its own metro, radio station, newspaper, mail system and pharmacy – but no bar. In addition, they don’t pay taxes.

Vatican Museum

– Looking at every piece of art in the museum for 60 seconds would take a person 12 years.

– The Vatican Museum is the second largest museum in the world.

– Approximately 20,000 to 30,000 individuals pass through each day. That excludes pre-booked tours.

-The Vatican has 90 per cent of Porphyry marble in the world – a rare, purple marble from Egypt. One kilo is equal to 90,000 Euro.

– The Gallery of Maps features numerous paintings of the Italian regions, done between 1580 and 1585. The maps were created without equipment and are still 80 per cent accurate today.

The Sistine Chapel

– The Sistine Chapel was named after the Pope’s sister at the time.

– Conclave (the choosing of the new Pope) is still carried out in the chapel. The doors are locked and three votes are taken a day. When two-thirds of the votes match, a new Pope is elected and a white smoke it sent out to the crowds through a temporary fireplace.

– The Sistine Chapel is 44 metres long, 13 metres wide and 22 metres high.

– Michelangelo was recommended to paint the ceiling by another famous artist, Raphael. He realized Michelangelo was well known for sculptures, not paintings, and was hoping to ruin his reputation.

– Pope Julius II (a.k.a., the patron of art), commissioned
Michelangelo to paint 12 Apostles on the chapel’s ceiling. Michelangelo painted a few, but didn’t like how they were turning out, so he returned home to Florence. The Swiss Guard was then sent to get him.

-Michelangelo returned to the job on the agreement that he would paint a fresco that he wanted. He ended up painting over 300 figures.

– Like all artists of his time, Michelangelo couldn’t sign his work. Instead, he incorporated numerous images of himself into the scenes. He is shown with his finger over his mouth, symbolizing that he couldn’t originally speak his mind with the Pope.

– The ceiling took four years to paint – 1508 to 1512.

– Contrary to what many people believe, Michelangelo wasn’t laying down while painting. Instead, he was standing on scaffolding, looking upwards, sometimes between 18 to 20 hours a day.

– The Last Judgment, the vertical image immediately after entering he chapel, took Michelangelo six years – 1535 to 1541. At this time he was in his 60s. (Therefore, he spent 10 years of his life in this chapel, painting,)

– In this illustration, Michelangelo painted the Pope’s right-hand-man in hell; with horns, a tail and entangled by a snake – all because he didn’t approve of the nudity in Michelangelo’s paintings.

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