One of the well-nigh favorite goals for travelers on a trip to Italy is the Vatican City. Vatican City is the world’s only state occupied solely with religion. It is the mansion house of the pope, the site of St. Vatican City is a Papal state, so it is wise to show up esteem to the Roman Catholic Church while visiting. Vatican City is also home to cultural treasures such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican museums, having some of the world’s most famous pictures and carvings.
Vatican City State
Most visitors do not acknowledge that this is a sovereign state of it own. This implies that it holds its regulations and has its administration organization unrestricted of the Italian system. The Vatican City is a surrounded state within the city of Rome. It is the smallest independent state in the whole world with only a little over 100 acres. It was formed in 1929 under an arrangement between the Kingdom of Italy and the Holy Seat. The Holy Seat refers to the central governing system of rules of the Catholic Church headed by the Pope. The Pope is also celebrated as the Bishop of Rome. The Vatican City is the official mansion house of the Pope, and it is seen by millions of people each year on an Italy vacation.
You can accede the Vatican City through the known St. Peter’s Square. This square is characterized by great Baroque architecture from the 1600s to include symbols of the church maternally encompassing its people in its arms. St. Peter’s Basilica is another place you can visit in the Vatican City while on your Italy vacation because it is also set up in St. Peter’s Square.
It is the most sacred building in the Vatican City, and this church’s dome can be seen for miles around Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica places 60,000 and is stated to be the widest building in the Christian church. It is noted for being the graveyard of St. Peter who is said to be the founding beginner of the Catholic Church by being the first Bishop of Rome. The find of his tomb was enunciated in 1950 after a decade of archeological exploration.
Its prestigious history explains the development of an architectural and artistic ensemble of exceptional value. Beneath the basilica of Saint Peter, reconstructed in the 16th century under the guidance of the most brilliant architects of the Renaissance, remains of the first basilica founded by Constantine still exist, as well as ruins of the circus of Caligula and Nero, and a Roman necropolis of the 1st century AD, where Saint Peter’s tomb is located. Under Julius II’s patronage in 1506, an extraordinary artistic era was inaugurated, leading to the decoration of Raphael’s Stanze and of the Sistine Chapel with frescoes by Michelangelo, along with the building of the new basilica, completed in 1626, fruit of the combined genius of Bramante, Raphael, Michelangelo, Bernini, Maderno and Della Porta.
The Vatican Palace is the result of a long series of additions and modifications by which, from the Middle Ages, the Popes rivalled each other in magnificence. The original building of Nicholas III (1277-1280) was enlarged in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries: the history of the arts of the Renaissance and Baroque periods finds here iconic models.
In 1475, Sixtus IV founded the Vatican Library, which is the first open to the public in Europe; the collections of manuscripts and books, prints, drawings, coins and decorative arts, constantly increased through the centuries, making it an invaluable repository of human culture.
From the mid-18th century, the popes’ efforts were also directed towards expanding the private collections of antiquities dating back to the Renaissance: their transformation into public museums accessible to scholars and connoisseurs marks the origin of the Vatican Museums. New buildings were built specifically to house the classical sculptures, such as the Pio-Clementine Museum, which represents a milestone in the history of European culture. The 19th- and 20th-century additions of new and diverse collections and buildings accord with the tradition of papal patronage.
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Vatican City is a stunning site, so you’ll want to be sure you don’t lose a thing. The Vatican has its tourist office on the left side of the piazza which is a good point to begin your visit. Vatican City is the world’s tiniest independent state. It is the world’s smallest political entity with rich cultural traditions. Vatican City is the most miniature city-state in the world, with only 880 people, but is one of the most seen.
Catholic Tradition states that St. Peter is buried under the altar of this Basilica and hence all the Popes since then have also been buried in the Basilica the most recent being Pope John Paul II in April 2005. At the entry of the Basilica are statues of Christ, St. John the Baptist and 11 of the 12 apostles. You can enter the Basilica for free during your Italian vacation if you are appropriately dressed with no bare shoulders or knees. If you would like to attend mass, you should go to the Basilica on a Sunday.
Start your tour with the baldachin, the great canopy over the papal altar and St. Peter’s tomb, crafted by master artist and architect Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The canopy took nine years to build and was completed in 1633. It is made of 90 tons of bronze, most of it from the portico of Rome’s Pantheon. It is over 95 feet tall, almost as tall as a ten-story building.
t. Peter’s tomb is directly below it. You can see two wings of the ornate balustrade separated by a gate that opens to the sunken, semicircular area in front of the papal altar, known as the Confessio, or Chapel of the Confession. This refers to the confession of faith by St. Peter, which led to his martyrdom. The tomb itself is not visible, as it is down a set of stairs and tucked into a niche at the back of the Confessio. You can only view it on a special tour of the Scavi, or excavations, in the ancient necropolis.
Directly above is Michelangelo’s dome, rising 448 feet to the top of the cross on the lantern tower outside. You can see the inner hemispherical layer of its double shell; a slightly more pointed one is visible outdoors. It is 140 feet in diameter—one of the largest domes in the world. The colorful mosaics around the dome depict Jesus, Mary, Joseph, St. John the Baptist, and the Twelve Apostles. You can just make out the image of God bestowing his blessing upon mankind through the oculus, the round opening at the crown of the dome.
If you look through the baldachin toward the apse at the end of the central nave, you will see the glowing light of the alabaster window depicting the Holy Spirit as a dove (the dove is six feet tall). Below that is the Altar of the Chair of St. Peter, a monumental sculpture by Bernini. It contains the relics of an ancient chair, reputedly from which St. Peter preached. The altar symbolizes the teaching authority of the pope.
Immediately behind you, you will find the statue of St. Peter Enthroned, set in front of a maroon-and-gold mosaic curtain. This 13th-century bronze sculpture is attributed to Arnolfo di Campio. St. Peter’s hands are raised in the act of blessing, and over the course of seven centuries of devotion, the custom of kissing or touching the right foot has almost completely worn away the toes.
Vatican Museums Visitor Information
Location: Viale Vaticano, 00165 Rome
Hours: Monday-Saturday 9 am until 6 pm (ticket office closes at 4 pm); closed Sundays, January 1, January 6, February 11, March 19, Easter Sunday and Monday, May 1, June 29, August 14, August 15, November 1, December 8, December 25, December 26.
During summer season (starting late April), the Vatican Museums are usually open on Friday evenings too.
Free admission: The Vatican Museums are open for free on the last Sunday of every month. Hours are from 9 am – 2 pm (ticket office until 12:30 pm). Exceptions include Easter Sunday, as well as June 29, December 25, or December 26 if they fall on a Sunday. Free admission to the Vatican Museums is also available on September 27 (World Tourism Day). While free admission to the Vatican Museums may be easy on your budget, be prepared for long queues for admission and crowds around all the famous artworks.
Visiting Tip: Avoid the (very) long entrance line by buying your ticket in advance, within 60 days of your visit. You can buy tickets on the Vatican Museums web site and our affiliate Select Italy sells Vatican Museum tickets with payment in US dollars.
There are some other sites to see here during your Italy holiday. The biggest museum in the world is also found in the Vatican City. It has over 1400 rooms and galleries that present two thousand years of art. The Sistine Chapel is also located here and is celebrated for being the private chapel that the Cardinals go to when electing a new Pope.
So what is the best manner to see all the sights that the Vatican City has to propose during your Italian vacation? There are led tours ready that can be taken for half a day or longer. You can take a conducted tour of just the museum or guided tour to include all the essential places of interest in the Vatican City, and this will guarantee that you don’t miss a thing here on your Italian vacation.