20 August 2009

Is the Pope Catholic?

And does his wife shop at K-mart? The answer to both questions is "that's a stupid question." I was going to include this post in with the previous Rome post, but on reflection I decided my trip to Vatican City deserved its own headline. So, a more useful question might be, "Is the Vatican worth a visit?" The answer to that is a resounding "Yes."

I got there later in the day than I had intended after queuing for an hour and a half for a train ticket for the following day, so I had to rush through the museum a bit to get through it before it shut. That didn't bother me too much; I still spent a good two hours there, but if I were an art enthusiast or a fan of white stone sculptures of ancient Greek people's heads I could have easily stayed for a week without getting bored.

Of course the highlight was the Sistine Chapel, although it was so jam packed with noisy tour groups (scourge of Europe) that it couldn't really be appreciated properly. I also got a lot out of the rooms painted by Raphael and his students that lead up to the Sistine Chapel, which is saying something since I almost never get anything much out of giant paintings. After all the not-so-biblical Virgin Mary oriented decorations I saw so much of in Spain, I was surprised (perhaps unfairly) by how Christ-centred much of the art in the Vatican was. At some point someone in the Holy See obviously had the right idea. Or at the very least, Raphael and Michelangelo did. The jury's still out on Leonardo and Donatello.

After the museum and the chapel, I went to look at St. Peter's Basilica. I had seen a lot of pretty ornately decorated cathedrals in Spain and Portugal, so I thought I had some idea of what I was in for as I walked through the front door.

Nope. It's not really a good idea to walk into arguably the most sacred site in the world and exclaim "Holy crap!" but that's pretty much the response it got out of me. For one thing, it's freaking huge, much bigger than the outside suggests. For another, the architecture and interior decorating create the striking impression that whole place is built of light, despite the only source of natural light being the huge dome over the sanctuary. They were about to start a mass, and I was quite tempted to join in, but in the end my inability to speak Latin and the fact that I'm still not entirely sure what the deal is with the Roman Catholic Church led me to the conclusion that I was about to make a giant hypocrite of myself, so I politely declined and headed for the door.

I wasn't such a fan of having a room full of dead popes interred in the basement; I've said before that is just sailing too close to the zombie invasion wind. But at least, if they do get up and start wandering around, they'll be far too distracted by the pretty building they're in to launch any sort of holocaustic attack on the rest of Italy.

Far from home




Garry with 2 Rs
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