Day 4 of our Royal Caribbean Western-Mediterranean Cruise brought us to Rome... the eternal city where timeless statues inhabit every corner as witnesses of this once all-powerful civilisation; where monolithic structures, though in ruins, still bear testimony to the Romans' engineering ingenuity.
So I wasn't prepared for the scene that greeted us at the docks...
|From the dock, we rode for about an hour into in the heart of Rome, passing by grazing pastures that stretched right from the doorstep of modern amenities. Cars get fed petrol while cows get fattened up right next to each other.|
|Continuing on from our rest stop, new developments could no longer contain the charm of old Rome and surrendered themselves to marvelous medieval masonry the closer we got to the city centre. My camera was eagerly anticipating its playground.|
|Our excellent guide (can't remember his name) was a graduate in art history and culture. I'm flabbergasted. To be a registered tour guide, most of them actually had to get a degree for it!|
Our first stop was the Vatican. Mum and dad couldn't wait to mark they visit to the holy city and promptly sat down on a stray table and chairs right next to where we alighted before calling out to me ever so dearly... "Darren, take picture, take picture!"
The Vatican is the smallest country in the world. Roughly the size of a regular golf course (approx. 110 acres), the city-state came into being a sovereign entity as a result of the Lateran Treaty signed on 11 February 1929 between the Holy See (a.k.a. the Pope) and Italy.
Though it may be small, it yields tremendous power and influence over Catholics worldwide as the epicentre of faith, tradition and doctrines.
|All roads lead to Rome. This photo says it just right! But in this case, we're being led to St Peter's Square and Basilica. So Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code right?!|
|St Peter Basilica is built on the grave of St Peter, who is considered to be the first pope. Construction of the basilica was consecrated by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 324.|
|The 5.55m tall statue of St Paul imposes at the entrance to the Basilica holding a sword and book, which symbolises martyrdom and scriptures respectively. On the book are the words, "I can do all things in Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13|
|Towering columns support the colonnade while enameled ceiling frescoes at the entrance corridor of the Basilica provided a prelude to the staggering decorations within.|
|Reminiscent of an outside-in jewelbox, the main nave of the cathedral stretches 186.36m from the entrance to the apse. It's massive!|
|Perhaps one of the most important statues within St Peter's Basilica is the marble Pietà by Michelangelo. The artist was only 21 years old when he was commissioned to scuplt it. Only 21! He took a year to complete it in 1499.|
Secondly, the figure of Jesus is too small. He's a grown man but it seems that Mary is bigger than He is. The explanation? In death, Jesus appears feeble in the arms of His mother that why the intended vulnerability. The artistic intent is so beautiful. I wouldn't have noticed all these things if our guide didn't point them out to us. Now I understand what's art appreciation!
On 21 May 1972 (2 years before my birthdate!), a lunatic defaced the Pietà by hacking off the Madonna's nose and hand. The statue had since be restored and now sits behind a bullet-proof glass to the right of the Basilica's entrance. Even God needs protection. Don't miss catching the Pietà when you are there!
|Byzantine dome over the aspe. Standing at a height of 136.57m from the floor to the external cross, it is the tallest dome in the world.|
|The Baroque bronze-sculpted baldachin over the main altar acts as a focal during ceremonies because the Basilica is so huge. Behind it is an elaborate and ornate reliquary that enshrines a chair supposedly owned by St Peter himself.|
|From far, I thought this was a painting. But on closer examination, it's actually made up of tiny pieces of coloured mosaics! Wow. Every piece plays a part to form this picture and none is less important than the other.|
|Everywhere I looked in St Peter's Basilica, there was bound to be something of interest. It's an art explosion in all directions!|
The Basilica is open 7:00 am - 6:00 pm daily and refrain from dressing like Janet Jackson, Britney Spears, Beyonce, etc. Wardrobe decency applies and expect to pay about €12 to visit the Basilica with fringe charges if you want to climb the dome, visit the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museum, etc. Check the Vatican Website for updated visitation info for it is closed during certain festivities.
|Bring home a memory of the Vatican in a nearby souvenir shop that sells anything from a photo of the Pope to decorated crucifixes to miniature replica of statues at St Peter's.|
|No wonder Mary is praying till she sees stars. Look at what the 2 men are doing! Is that fighting or foreplay?!|
Whatever it was, I hope I get a third visit and have the luxury of time to explore all that I've missed!