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Visiting the Vatican & Sistine Chapel

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.

Each year, 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 significance.

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 itself.

The Basilica 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 in 1615.

Sistine Chapel ceiling highlights

Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel ceiling
Sistine Chapel
God creates Adam
Sistine Chapel - Delphic Sybil
The Delphic Sybil
Sistine Chapel - prophet Isaiah
The prophet Isaiah

The grand 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.

Vatican travel basics

St. Peter's Basilica
Basilica hours: 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. (winter 6 p.m.)
Dome hours: 8 a.m. to sunset
Admission: Free of charge.
Dress respectfully.

Vatican 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.

Rome Metro Stop: Ottaviano Station

More about the Sistine Chapel around the Web:

About the Author...
Jessica Arriola Marati



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