Overview: Vatican City is not only a city, but also the world’s smallest country and home to the Vatican. Also known as the Holy See, the... more »
Vatican City is not only a city, but also the world’s smallest country and home to the Vatican. Also known as the Holy See, the... more » Vatican is the capital of the Catholic church and one of the world's most visited places.
For about a thousand years, the Papal States encompassed Rome and much of central Italy. In 1861, Italy was unified and in 1870 Rome fell to Italian troops and Pope Pius IX was forced to give up his territory.
The flamboyant Swiss Guard, founded in 1506 by Julius II, is still the Papal State's army and is responsible for the pope's personal security, due to their record of neutrality.
The Leonine walls were built in 846 and are the oldest remains of the city. The Vatican palace, home to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel, was originally constructed by Pope Eugenius III in the 12th century and then extended by later popes. less «
The Vatican is often crowded with both pilgrims and tourists, so you will have to get in line to get into St. Peter's Basilica and the... more » Vatican Museums. It can be hot in the summer: Arrive early and bring water.
One option to avoid the crowds is to buy tickets online and visit at the end of the day, an hour or so before closing time. However, this means that you only will have a few minutes to enjoy the sites on the tour, which may not be enough with so much to see. less «
Built in A.D. 139 as a mausoleum for the Roman Emperor Hadrian, this castle was transformed into a fortress by the popes during the 14th century.
You can expect a visit to the castle, including the ancient apartments of the popes (16th century) and the view from the balcony, to last about one hour.
The Romans built the first bridge in front of... More the castle in A.D. 134 as an access to the majestic mausoleum.
In A.D. 590, a black plague epidemic decimated the city and an angel appeared on the castle roof and put his sword back in its scabbard, indicating the end of the epidemic. Afterward a chapel was built on the roof of the castle to commemorate this miracle.
In 1667, the artist Bernini was in charge of renovating the bridge and he decided to open the parapet and to add eight statues of angels, symbolizing Christ's passion in memory of the miracle that saved the city from the devastating black plague.Less
Have a look on the left of the castle Sant'Angelo in front of you. The wall with several arches that you see about 50 meters above the ground is an emergency exit for the pope in case of attack on the apostolic palace. This passage on top of the wall was built by Léon IV (847-855) and renovated by Alexandre VI in 1227. It links the... More apostolic palace to the castle Sant'Angelo.
The apostolic palace is full of these kinds of secrets, but unfortunately this passage remains closed to visitors.Less
Stop on the white flagstone and look at the columns surrounding the square and you should see that the columns are perfectly aligned. St. Peter's Square was designed by Bernini to look like two giant opened arms welcoming pilgrims to the home of their religion.
The obelisk at the center of the square was once located in the center of the Circus... More Vaticanus, where it is said that St. Peter was crucified. Unfortunately the obelisk was moved in 1586 and the exact place of the crucifixion will never be known.Less
This huge bronze door has been the official entrance to the apostolic palace since 1663, and is permanently watched by three Swiss guards. The Pontifical Swiss Guard was founded in 1506 and in the 18th century several Swiss soldiers were recruited from various European courts to form the close quarters guards of the kings. Michelangelo designed... More the official--highly colorful--uniform, and guards also wear a long sword and a traditional halberd.
The bronze door opens to a long corridor leading to the famous steps of the Scala Regia, which was designed by Bernini to appear longer and wider than it actually is. Unfortunately this architectural wonder is closed to visitors, as is the rest of the apostolic palace where the pope lives; only official visitors are admitted inside.
On the top of the Scala Regia (the royal stairway), there is the Sala Regia (royal hall), the largest and most beautiful reception hall of the Vatican.Less
You are now standing in front of the world's biggest church: St. Peter's Basilica. Every Sunday about 150,000 Christians meet in the piazza in front of the church to listen to the pope's homily.
The construction of this basilica started in 1506 and ended in 1626 under several famous architects: Bramante, Michelangelo and Bernini.
St. Peter's... More grave is said to be located under the center of the church, and you may visit the graves of all the former popes, including St. Peter's relics, located in a giant crypt under the four-poster.
The most popular wonder is immediately on the right of the entry: the "Pietà" by Michelangelo, a white marble statue depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the body of Jesus. The Virgin is unusually youthful and calm compared to other pietas in which she is depicted older and distraught. Michelangelo wanted to underline the Virgin beauty rather than her sadness and Jesus seems older and smaller than Mary. The "Pieta" is the only sculpture Michelangelo ever signed, and you can see his name carved into the sash crossing Mary's breast.
If you wish to visit the cupola there is an elevator, but the wait is often several hours. Although the view is breathtaking, another impressive view is from the Vittoriano, which is much less crowded and offers views of this basilica.
The visit is free inside is free, and the long line usually moves faster than expected. You can expect to spend about an hour inside, but try to avoid Sundays and Christian celebrations, when the building is closed or overcrowded.Less
This is one of the five official entrance doors of the Vatican and a nice place to watch the Swiss Guards in their unique uniforms.
Here is the entrance used by all those who live in the Vatican and the only door where the Swiss pontifical guards do not wear the famous uniforms designed by Michelangelo.
The Vatican Museum should not be missed on a visit to Vatican City. It is home to many famous paintings, frescos and other artworks, including the Sistine Chapel. You can avoid lines by arriving 1-2 hours before closing, but doing so limits your time there. An average visit lasts about 1-2 hours.
Do not miss this famous painting in the Pinacoteca Vaticana depicting St. Jerome during his retreat into the Syrian Desert. The background is a distant landscape of a lake surrounded by mountains, evocative of another Da Vinci masterpiece, the "Mona Lisa" or "Gioconda."
Be sure to also see "The Entombment of Christ" ... Moreby Caravaggio (1603). The Caravaggio paintings use dramatic lighting, are quite realistic and had a large influence on the Baroque school.Less
Some 40 maps representing the Italian regions and the papal properties at the time of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585) are frescoed on the walls here.
The Sistine Chapel is world famous for its frescoes by Michelangelo, who painted the ceiling between 1508 and 1512. The ceiling, and especially "The Last Judgment" (1535-1541), is widely considered Michelangelo's crowning achievement in painting.
"The Last Judgment" is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the... More apocalypse: the souls of humanity rise and descend to their fates as judged by Christ and his saintly entourage. "The Last Judgment" was an object of a bitter dispute between Cardinal Carafa and Michelangelo because Michelangelo depicted naked figures, and the genitalia in the fresco were later covered by the artist Daniele da Volterra. The man to the left of the Christ, with the skin in his hand, is a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself.
All the paintings in the room seem to frame the shining Christ in the middle. As Pope Clement VII was fascinated by the new heliocentric cosmology of Copernicus, the painting could also be an allegory of the new cosmology, with the shining Christ as the sun in the center of the universe.
This chapel is where the cardinals meet to elect a new pope, which is known as a conclave. According to tradition, Christians wait in St. Peter's Square to observe smoke rising from the Sistine chimney. White smoke, created by burning the ballots of the election, signifies that a new pope has been elected. Black smoke, created by burning the ballots with chemical additives, means that no successful election has yet occurred.
The dimensions of the chapel are the same as those of the Temple of Solomon according to the Old Testament: 40.9 meters (134 feet) long by 13.4 meters (44 feet) wide. The ceiling is 20.7 meters high (68 feet) and was built between 1473 and 1481.Less
The paintings and frescoes in the Borgia Apartments were created between 1492 and 1494.
The four Stanze di Raffaello were reception rooms of the papal apartments:
1. Hall of Constantine: dedicated to the victory of Christianity over paganism, its frescoes represent the life of the Roman Emperor Constantine.
2. Room of Heliodorus: The Deliverance of St. Peter, which describes in three episodes how St. Peter was liberated from prison... More by an angel. It is a breathtaking study in light: natural moonlight, torchlight and God-provided angel light, the latter, of course, outshines the others.
3. Room of the Signatura: The School of Athens represents the truth acquired through reason and is perhaps Raphael's most famous fresco. The most famous numbers on the fresco are: 6, Pythagoras; 12, Socrates; 13, Heraclitus (depicted with the portrait of Michelangelo); 14, Plato (depicted with the portrait of Leonardo da Vinci); 15, Aristotle; 16, Diogenes; R, self-portrait of Raphael.
4. The Room of the Fire in the Borgo: fire in the Borgo.Less