Italy · Photography · Travel

Vatican Cameo

I had a wish list of the things I had to see in Vatican.

a) Sistine Chapel, specifically The creation of Adam by Michelangelo.

b) The Swiss guards in their colourful pantaloons supposedly designed by Michelangelo.

By the way, he didn’t!

c) Bramante Staircase or the double helix spiral staircase.

d) Michelangelo’s Pieta.

Everything else I saw would be a bonus!

So like travellers on a budget who count euros and time too, three hours were set aside for the museum. 

That day we were in Vatican for nine!

“In the universe, there are things that are known, and there are things that are unknown, and in between, there are doors.”     –  William Blake

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I walk the line!

 The museum entrance was a surprise, pretty modest, not what I expected. On the other hand the queues and the tour groups in their distinctive neon caps and jackets were ginormous.

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Ship Ahoy!

It wasn’t the double helix spiral staircase I was hankering for but a still a lovely one that went round and round as we entered the museum.

Note the boat and oars, the exhibits were already in place!

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Arnaldo Pomodoro’ Sphere within sphere. Mama Sphere rotates with Baby Sphere and all!

The Sphere sculpture was set in the grounds of the Pinecone Courtyard so named after a massive pinecone sculpture set on a niche wall overlooking it. I suppose it’s famous for Dan Brown too mentioned in his book, Angels and Demons; I read it twice for it was my official guide to everything Vatican.

The Hall of Sculptures was next and we almost gave it a miss in a race to see the Sistine Chapel till a smiling guard (the only one of his kind) helpfully pointed that we’d miss something cool.

And now when I remember the scores of marble statues, big and small and see the million photos I took, I agree.

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Jude Law, a few pounds heavier perhaps?
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River Nile- A male God?

 “Pulvis et umbra sumus.” (We are but dust and shadow.) – Horace 

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Atlas Shrugged!
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“Double, double toil and trouble; fire burn and caldron bubble.”
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Yup! Son of Zeus, demigod Hercules, that’s me.

In a grip of excitement, we walked faster, eyes darting to take in everything. I saw my first real Egyptian sarcophagus, canopic jars and pages from the Book of the Dead. The rows of paintings on the walls were a blur until I happened to glance at the names; I was looking at a Caravaggio, Raphael, Picasso, Dali, DaVinci .

And did I mention the roofs?

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The carrot was the Cappella Sistine or Sistine Chapel. Signs directing to it was what kept most of us moving enthusiastically since Exhibit One.  

It was at the Hall of Maps where I heard the magic mantra, “Avanti! AvanTI! AVANTI!” (Forward!) It was the guard sitting by the door; I’m sure he must have lost his voice by the end of the day. He sounded shriller every time a visitor would come striding in through the doors and come to a crashing halt, eyes upwards, slack jawed in astonishment!

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Could this be Bifröst?
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Hall of Maps!

Such was the magnificence of the room.

Other highlights included the Hall of Tapestries, cool and oyster grey, subtle elegance after all that bling. The bright Matisse exhibition of prints reminded me surprisingly of Indian textile prints. An interactive art installation was also one of the unique ones. It came with screens that would come alive when you touched any avatar on it; no speech, just mime and then become still.

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Room with a view! 

So finally after stopping by at every room, gawking at the walls, roof, floor, objects, we made our way into Sistine. Right away I heard stern voices in repeat mode, “Silenzio! No photos!”

Ok! Have you had the feeling when the expectations are gargantuan and you pray not to be disappointed? I did before entering it.

The Chapel was much smaller than I expected but definitely more densely packed, I pitied the claustrophobic. While our eyes were frantically seeking the masterpieces on the walls and the roof, Vatican officials in dark suits, Matrix kind swarmed among us, Agent Smiths in their demeanour, shouting, “Silenzio! No photo!” They even came menacingly to check the last photos taken of the folks they suspected. Uncomfortable, right?

Anyway, we were there and were determined to experience the Sistine magic. We sat on the bench running along the walls to marvel the genius of the painter who made the figures almost three dimensional. I finally spotted ‘Creation of Adam’ and it was disappointingly small, a panel among many on the roof. I switched to the other side so that I could admire from another angle- the gorgeous murals and the painted scalloped fabric wallpaper that looked lifelike. In fact I saw the same room with the scalloped fabric wall paper in ‘The young Pope’ starring Jude Law. The series is an absolute favourite of mine!

I finally made it to my Double Helix Bramante Staircase, there was not a chance I would have missed it. Apparently you exit the museum via this very staircase.

Swirling- whirling down we go,

Look up, watch the skylight glow!

 

The Swiss Guards came marching by.

Yay!

Last stop, St Peter’s Basilica.

Behind a glass wall was Pieta, inspiring reverence and awe all around.

To think Michelangelo was only 24 when he sculpted it.

And then I looked up and down,

inside …

…and out!

“Hope is the pillar that holds up the world. Hope is the dream of a waking man.” – Pliny the Elder.

St Peter’s Basilica was an overwhelming sensory experience, never to be forgotten.

That was Vatican for me, where reality transcended my imagination!

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27 thoughts on “Vatican Cameo

  1. Wow. That is quite the tour. Very well done. Good eye on seeing Jude Law. I saw the Pieta about 49 years ago, before it was hammered and glassed. I’m glad you spent a lot of time. Well worth it.

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    1. Thank you so much John ! Feeling nostalgic remembering that walk and all the feelings it evoked. Chancing upon Jude Law in the Vatican especially since I saw him recently as the Pope in ‘The Young Pope’ was exciting. As for seeing the Pieta, it was an incredible experience even though it was behind a glass wall and the struggle to get to it through the crowd was real. Luckily we had time on our side. It was indeed worth it!

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  2. Great tour, Sheetal. You reminded me that I didn’t see a 10th of the Vatican. Fabulous shots of the staircase, the ceilings, and of course, the art works. I also love the “room with a view.” Marvelous! 9 hours at the Vatican. Amazing!

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  3. Ah – thank you for a marvelous tour, Sheetal! So many hours! And there is so much to see…Wonderful shots and how about Jude Law? Very nice meeting him there – good eye. Really love the staircases and the room with a view. A glorious visit.

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  4. Wow, thank you for your tour of the Vatican Museums, Sheetal. I’ll add it to my next Returning Home post, which won’t be until April 6, but I’ll also add it to my post this Sunday. I’m also writing part one of two on the Vatican Museums as well! So funny that we are both writing about it at the same time. You were much more thrilled by it than I was. I can see easily how you could be there for 9 hours; I felt like I barely skimmed the surface. I too loved that Hall of Maps. And I was very disappointed by the crowds and the guards and the “no photography” in the Sistine Chapel. Thanks for sharing and for linking to mine. 🙂

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    1. Thank you Cathy! Honestly speaking, it was your last post that set me off and I was inspired to get my thoughts and experiences in writing before they all become fuzzy. Then came the writing invitation and the rest is history. Hall of Maps tops my favourites too, I was one of the awestruck visitor. I can’t wait to read about your Vatican experiences, with your eye for details, it’s bound to be good.

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      1. I’m glad I inspired you to get your thoughts down in writing, Sheetal. You were so much better organized than I was, with a specific list of things you wanted to see. I wish I’d been better prepared. I was mostly lost there, and didn’t have any idea of particular things to look for. 🙂

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        1. I know that feeling so well Cathy. After a while all the rooms begin to look the same and the exhibits become a blur. It’s the same in any museum, but this was Vatican and I didn’t want to come away with any regrets. I mean it was a once in a lifetime opportunity to see it all and Rome probably was not going happen again unless Trevi Fountain works its magic☺️.

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        2. To be honest, Sheetal, I regretted spending one of my only two days in Rome in the Vatican Museums. If I had it to do over, I’d just wander aimlessly, making frequent stops at cafes for wine and food. 🙂

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    1. Jo, thank you ! I’m thrilled reading your comments, makes all the hours I spent drafting this post worthwhile. I never visited Uffizi, instead chose Accademia for David but I know that feeling very well. To quote you, “One day, maybe.”😊

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  5. Read your post a couple of times to comprehend …except for the Sistine Chapel, (thanks to that story by Gulzar) my knowledge is awfully limited…hence I just can’t made any intelligent comment here:)

    The pictures are amazing and the commentary is as always fresh and drenched with the enthusiasm a child little might carry on her first visit to the disney land! Just hoping the corona virus takes an early exit so that one day I might walk into all the places you have mentioned get the deja vu feel.

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    1. Manjari, no one would know better than you how excited I was with this trip; it still feels unbelievable. Therefore I wanted to put down my memories in writing so that some details never fade away. I hope you too get an opportunity to visit this beautiful country, it’ll be fun to read your thoughts. Thank you for always appreciating my posts, Manjari. Happy Holi-Day!

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  6. I visited the chapel years ago and your post brought it all back to me Sheetal. We were fortunate to have been part of a private tour arranged by our corporation as a performance award. It made all that hard work worthwhile and then some! The wonders of the chapel cannot be overstated. I do find myself wondering why the catholic church (of which I am a no-longer-practicing member) works so hard to collect contributions for the poor when in fact they have more riches and land worldwide than can even be imagined. But that’s a subject for some other day 🙂 Wonderful post, enjoyed it very much.

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    1. What a delightful comment Tina and with that last bit, you’ve also set my mind wondering, why ? I guess one can’t say that only the Catholic Church has a monopoly over riches. Trust me, our Indian shrines can give a stiff competition and yet in this land of a billion, many still struggle for their basic necessities. Religion is a panacea for the masses, life goes on.

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