Travel Tuesday: Yes We Vatican!
By: Sophie Hill
A space of secrets: every corner and corridor contains ancient artifacts and treasures from forgotten centuries. The look of silent eyes, etched in stone, glancing longingly across ballroom ceilings as if they could convey emotions equal to the living. As bells chimed and skittish birds flocked towards distant telephone wires, the power of the place overwhelms all who stand in its wake.
The Vatican has always entranced and interested me. Having grown up in a non-religious household, I felt a strong desire to understand the connection people had with this holy place. It wasn’t until years later (this summer, to be exact) that I had the opportunity to experience the Vatican first hand. Just as the Roman sun broke through the romantic morning haze, I entered into the Papal state, cautious and curious.
I was awestruck and mesmerized. The grandeur of the Vatican is unlike anything I have experienced. As I was guided through fantastic marble arches and shown priceless golden trinkets, the amount of accumulated wealth astonished me. From rooms full of sculptures to floors carved in hallways, their embellishment enhanced the Vatican’s wealth and status. Along the way, there was even a room dedicated to hand-carved bathtubs made of prized stones and minerals.
I later journeyed into St. Peter’s Basilica, which was crafted with a level of opulence that felt borderline excessive. My eyes were darting around like a hyperactive toddler trying to play tag. Gold, marble and precious gems donned the building from top to bottom. Enclaves were filled with ornate coffins, accurately recreating statues of saints around every corner. You could have looked at the gold-encrusted ceiling for infinity, and barely scratched the surface of seeing it all.
However, the crown jewel of all the artwork was Michelangelo’s masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel. During my tour, I entered a room packed with colorfully clad tourists all marveling at what they saw before them. Chitter-chatter would burst out around the room like clusters of fireworks, as people comprehended and commented on the iconic artistry. We were all told to be silent by various guards surrounding us, so as to not disturb the ambiance.
In such a compact area, there were so many artists who slaved away on pieces that seemed almost inhumanly and impossibly made. A sculpture that was crafted over three hundred years ago had the capacity to bring me to tears because of its sheer beauty, and its example of human determination. As I reflect upon it now, I think the grace and timelessness of this kind of artwork allows us all to remember what it means to be human. By creating things that seem hopeless to even attempt, we are reminded that with great vision and determination, any goal can be realized.
Watch below a short walking tour video showing the magnificance of the Vatican or copy and paste this link into your browser for a virtual tour: