There are times when travelling when I just have a 'moment'. A moment in which I just feel a sense of something bigger than myself and I know that this moment is something special to cherish forever. It's something above just the normal travel giddies that I get each time we arrive at a new destination! This is what I felt at St. Peter's. So let's call this one a 'spiritual moment'. Hearing the church bells while walking around the almost empty Square was just incredible. And so was the Basilica.
St. Peter's Square and Basilica will more than likely be on your list of 'to-see' items in Rome. As it should be for several reasons. It is one of the largest churches in the world. It was co-developed by many greats, including Michelangelo and Bernini (what didn't they develop in Rome?). And it is the main Church used by the Pope. These are all incredible facts right? But there is more...so much more.
As you may or may not know, St. Peter, as in Peter the Apostle who Jesus left in charge of the Church, was crucified and buried here. Actually, he was crucified some yards away but is buried under the center of the Basilica. He was crucified by the Romans in 64 AD. He was crucified upside down on a cross by his choice because he said he was unworthy to die like Christ. Not only was it moving just to be in the vicinity of this but here's another little factoid. See the obelisk above? It is named "The Witness" as it used to stand in the center of Emperor Nero's Circus where it was a witness to hundreds of Christian deaths, including St. Peter. It is the oldest obelisk in Rome and has indeed earned the title "The Witness".
I arrived early to the Basilica on the Sunday morning of our departure. Van was worn out and stayed in bed and I was ok to go alone. Like I've said before, I grew up Catholic and Van is not, so I think being here was much more important to me. I knew the Pope gave a blessing at noon so I hightailed it over as early as I could. I arrived at 8:15 to a non-existent line and pretty much peace and quiet, except for the church bells which added to the moment. And the weather? Perfect.
I am assuming the chairs were set up for the Pope's blessing later in the day. I so wish I could have stuck around for that!
|"The Witness" continuing it's duty|
Upon entering the Basilica, Michelangelo's Pieta is immediately to your right. Another one of those masterpieces that I studied throughout school. It was truly unbelievable to lay eyes on, even if it was from a distance. The statue is now protected behind bullet proof glass because of a mad person who came after it with a hammer some years ago. Thanks for ruining the experience for us buddy. The Pieta is a marble carving of Mary holding Jesus after he was taken down from the cross. It is a beautiful and moving piece of artwork, completed in 1499.
Just standing in the nave of the Church, you are immediately taken aback by how massive this place is. Completed in 1626, it is truly an incredible masterpiece. Just take in the size and compare the size of the people to their surroundings. If you look above the altar in the center, the inscription letters around the dome measure at 6.6ft tall!! It is truly mesmerizing.
The Dome of the Basilica is also a masterpiece in itself...
St. Peter's remains are housed underneath the pillared alter several floors below. I actually made it down into the crypt but was greeted by an Italian guard halfway through the rooms who grumbled that I was not to be down there. Oops! So he escorted me back up to the surface and I spent my remaining time leisurely strolling and gazing at this incredible Church (and getting the mean eye from the guard).
As I left the Basilica, I decided to talk a walk back to our apartment rather than taking a cab. I just wanted to have a space of calm and reflection before the hustle and bustle of our departure back to England. I reflected on having been where hundreds of years of Christian and Catholic history was made. Having been where St. Peter, Jesus' disciple was crucified. It was a moment I will hold dear forever. It truly felt like a sort of Catholic pilgrimage to me.
Entry to St. Peter's Basilica is free, however the lines build quickly. Arrive first thing, between 7:30 (when it opens) and 8:00 for the least amount of waiting. Take your time and just wander around the Church. Read the history before entering so that you can hold a greater appreciation for the structure. And if your lucky, you might just catch a glimpse of the Pope himself!
A quick Happy Birthday to my little brother Daniel! Hope 28 is amazing!