Friday 12th September – my necks sore after four minutes. Imagine four years of it!

I thought the Vatican would have a huge crowd and hating huge crowds I decided I wouldn’t worry too much if we got there or not, but yesterday we met a guy who told us last entry is four o’clock. If we go in at about 3.45pm most of the crowds have thinned and we can wander quite leisurely through before it closes at 6pm. We decided we wanted a guide so we get all the goss. We find one, go in with a group of just six at 3.50pm and it’s awesome.

We start at the Vatican City and enter through the museum which is so huge we will only see a small portion. I don’t know what to say really. Bronzes that are two story high that are some of the oldest examples in the world. Sarcophagus’ carved in marble that took each 40 oxen to pull and were put in place before being built over. A 120 metre long map room that has paintings of the antique maps of the length and breadth of Italy with the ceilings painted in scenes of the time the map relates to. This pic shows a bit of the wall map with a bit of the ceiling. The detail is incredible.

Size wise the Vatican City is half a square kilometre in area, and half of that is green space where only the Pope may wander. It’s the smallest country in the world and functions completely independently of Italy, with the Pope at it’s religious and political head.

We are gobb smacked at the riches here. The heritage and contemporary artworks make up some of the finest collections in the world. Things like the purple stone from Egypt we have seen is worth around $86K per kilo. Two pillars we see weigh 80 tonne each and to quantify that there is no more available in the world. It’s been exhausted and the church has 80% of all available. After the earthquakes many of the buildings lay in ruins and when the Vatican needed marble it simply nabbed it from the surrounding ruins, as did many of the builders of the day. They are very proud that so much of the flooring has been recycled in this way.

We view some of the finest and oldest tapestries in the world and they are massive, in the only air conditioned area in the Vatican.

From here we go to the Sistine Chapel. I had heard of it but didn’t really know anything about it bar Michelangelo’s painting. It’s the Popes Private Chapel inside the Vatican and not that big really. It’s probably mostly famous though because of the ceiling painting Michelangelo did. It took him four years of standing on scaffolding, leaning back and painting. As I stood looking up for such a short time I wonder how you could do this for four years! The Pope at the time gave him pretty much free rein and it’s interesting to see some of the things he did weren’t exactly in line with the churches thinking but so great a painter he was then that no one questioned… except a guy called Biaggo who was kind’ve the current Popes right hand man. No one had been allowed to see the progress except the Pope. There was this one time though that Biaggo accompanied the Pope. He criticised the nakedness of the men and woman and suggested they be covered. Michelangelo apparently accepted the comments graciously, but when the ceiling was revealed to all at the end, people remained as naked as before. On the left side is depicted heaven and on the far right side was hell with the devil represented in the likeness of Biaggo. Biaggo was disgusted and appealed to the Pope. The Pope basically said ‘tough’ and so it remains. That was the standing of Michealangelo at the time.

This is a picture of the ceiling from a book as no photographs were allowed to be taken inside. It does no justice to the incredible work of Michelangelo who actually was first and foremost a sculptor rather than a painter.

And last but not least if you are young, Swiss and male, you could perhaps be offered a job in the Swiss guard who provide the private bodyguards for the Pope. Why Swiss? Well everyone knows the Italians can’t be trusted said our guide yesterday. But today’s guide told us a few hundred years ago the Pope decided he needed a group who were completely unbiased whom he could trust 100% and chose the Swiss guard and so it has remained for the hundreds of years since.

You know I’m making this all up aye???

Nah. Just kidding…it’s just as we heard from the guide today. Promise….

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