Friday, June 29, 2007

St Peter's Basilica

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At the end of our tour, we were left at the entrance to the Sistine Chapel. We were told there was supposed to be complete silence and no cameras or video (even without flash), but when we went in, it was pandemonium. The place was jam packed, everyone talking, flashes popping. I took some video (which has the advantage of not needing flash), which you can see at the end of the Vatican video in the last post.

I was surprised at the paintings on the ceiling – they were smaller and more of them than I had thought.

After the Sistine Chapel, we headed through a special entrance (which did not require another security screening since we had already passed one) into St Peter’s Basilica.

What can I say? It is absolutely enormous, although it’s sort of sectioned off into manageable pieces with enormous pillars and side chapels. We got to go right up to the altar, over which there is an incredibly tall tower. At the top of the tower, which no one can quite see, are supposedly housed the skulls of Sts Peter and Paul.

I tried to take some photos, but the space is so enormous that nothing really came out.

So I have now been in (I believe) the three largest churches in the world -- St Peter’s, Hagia Sophia, and St Sava’s (in Belgrade), and I would honestly have to say that I was most impressed by St Sava’s. Even though the interior is not finished, the way they used the interior space is the most awe-inspiring. There are no pillars dividing the space, and the roof seems the highest of the three.

The first photo is of St Peter’s Square, taken from the entrance to the Basilica.

The second photo is also taken from the entrance, but pointing off to the right, where many of the administrative buildings of the independent country of the Vatican are housed – such as the Vatican Post Office. (The country of the Vatican, you’ll be interested to know, has a population of 400 and the official language is Latin.)

The bottom photo is of the front of St Peter’s, looking back from the end of St Peter’s Square.

For more information on St Peter’s, click here. It’s interesting to note that St Peter’s is actually the patriarchal seat of Constantinople, not Rome. The pope, as the patriarch of Rome, technically has his seat at St John Lateran. (There are five patriarchal basilicas in Rome, acting as seats – originally – for the Pentarchy, or five equal Patriarchs of Christendom.) St Paul’s Outside the Walls was the seat of the Pope (or Patriarch) of Alexandria; St Mary Maggiore for the Patriarch of Antioch; and St Lawrence Outside the Walls (not considered a major basilica) for the Patriarch of Jerusalem (who is ranked fifth in the hierarchy of honor among the patriarchates).

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