St. Pete's Square in Rome is a major
tourist draw for people of all reigious
beliefs who come to see the grandeur
of St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican
Museums & Sistine Chapel.
thousands upon thousands of religious pilgrims descend upon Rome
to visit the seat of the Roman Catholic Church, the Vatican.
No matter what your religious beliefs, the Vatican is an important
stop on any visit to Rome because of its historical and artistic
Most of Vatican
City, which at 44 hectares is the smallest independent state
in the world, is closed to the public.
The gates are closely watched
by members of the Swiss Guard, under whose whimsical costumes
lie years and years of experience.
You can, however, visit the
most important parts of the Vatican without entering the complex
of Saint Peter is the centerpiece of the Vatican, a magnificent
marble structure whose cupola dominates the Roman skyline. Commissioned
in 324 A.D. by the emperor Constantine, the original church consisted
of a narrow building with a nave, four aisles and a transept.
The basilica remained unchanged for nearly a millennium, until
the early 16th century, when Pope Julius II hired architect Donato
Bramante to head a massive reconstruction project. Famous Italian
artists like Michelangelo and Bernini were recruited, and huge
sums were fundraised for the cause. The reconstruction was completed
Sistine Chapel ceiling highlights
Sistine Chapel ceiling
God creates Adam
The Delphic Sybil
The prophet Isaiah
exterior and ornate interior of St. Peter's reveal the opulence
of the Church during this period. The basilica contains famous
works of art, including Michelangelo's
Pieta, Bernini's Baldacchino and the sunken Confessio, which
enshrines the tomb of St. Peter. For a small fee, tourists can
also pay a visit to the underground crypt, which contains relics
and papal tombs, or climb stairs to the very top of the cupola
for a magnificent view of Rome.
The famous smoke - indicating a new Pope has been elected -
spews from a chimney atop the Sistine Chapel: white smoke for yes, black smoke for no.
The Vatican Museums, located just behind the basilica, can't be
missed. The complex consists of the Vatican Palaces, which includes
the famed Sistine
Chapel; (also check out this incredible Sistine Chapel virtual tour) the Gregorian Egyptian Museum; the Gregorian
Etruscan Museum; and a number of other important collections.
You can easily
spend an entire day (or two) exploring the museums' treasures,
which include Michelangelo's Creation of Adam and Last Judgement,
Perugino's Handing Over of the Keys, Raphael's School of Athens
and Caravaggio's Deposition from the Cross, among countless others.
Basilica hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (winter 6 p.m.)
Dome hours: 8 a.m. to sunset
Admission: Free of charge.
Museums & Sistine Chapel
Museum hours: 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. (last entrance 4 p.m.). Check
the official Vatican
calendar schedule. Due to ongoing restoration, the museum may be closed
to visitors at certain times.
Admission: 14 euro regular; 8 euro reduced for students and children
under 18. Buy
Vatican tickets online to avoid the crowds.