320+ STEPS TO THE CUPOLA

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The St. Peter's Basilica Cupola or  Dome soars above the altar and the baldacchino, richly with mosaic and stucco ornaments. It is supported by four structural piers with a perimeter of 71 m. and a height of 120 m. from the ground to the roof of the lantern.
 
 
 Around the base of the drum we can read the solemn words from Matthew's Gospel with which Jesus invests Peter with supreme authority. The text reads: "Tu es Petrus et super hanc petram aedificabo ecclesiam mean et tibi dabo claves regni caelorum" ("You are 'Rock' and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 16:18).The big  black letters (2 m. high) of this text on a gold background are lit by the light from 16 large windows, typical of Michelangelo's style, which punctuate the drum.
 Above the windows, the dome is divided into sixteen ribs and as many segments, decorated by majestic figures on six ascending concentric levels.They are as follows:

1. busts of the 16 popes buried in the basilica;
2. majestic figures of Christ, the Virgin Mary, St. Joseph, St. John the Baptist and various Apostles;
3. in the rectangular frames, angels bearing the instruments of Jesus' Passion;
4. the faces of cherubim and seraphim in circular medallions;
5. angels, the custodians of St. Peter's tomb
6. additional faces of winged angels.

Above these 96 figures is a blue sky spangled with stars, and above it the lantern at whose base is a Latin inscription: S. PETRI GLORIAE SIXTUS PP. V.A. MDXC PONTIF. V., translates to  "To the glory of St. Peter, Pope Sixtus V in the year 1590, the fifth of his pontificate".The eye then penetrates the lantern which is 18 m. long, and as in a vision come to rest on the glorious figure of God the Father.
 
  Inside the dome on the way to the stairs to the cupola  are beautiful mosaics made by famous artists.
 
 
 To climb the Cupola, visitors can choose to take the stairs  for 5Euro or the elevator for 7 Euro  . Take note that the elevator is only half of the climb and the line is longer. It stops at the roof. Then take the 320 steps going up to the Cupola. My niece and I took the longest route.
 
 Take note also that as you go up higher the stairs go steeper and smaller(in width).
 
 
 
 But once  on top, you will not feel tired anymore as the view is stupendous. It's all worth the climb. See some  pics below that  I took at the Cupola.
 
Vatican Gardens
 
 At the roof, there are restrooms, water fountains, coffee shop and a gift shop. Plus you can walk around and see the huge statues on the facade. This is where  visitors can take a rest before continuing their climb to the dome and/or in going down for those who don't want to take the lift, like us.

 
 
 
 

 On the way down along the walls of the stairs are inscriptions listing some famous people who visited St. Peter's Basilica. 








ST. PETER'S BASILICA - THE GREATEST OF ALL CHURCH'S

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The Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world. It is regarded as one of the holiest Catholic sites.
 The basilica is the burial site of its namesake Saint Peter, who was one of the twelve apostles of Jesus and the first Bishop of Rome.Historical evidence hold that Saint Peter's tomb is directly below the altar of the basilica.Many other Popes have been interred at St. Peter's since the Early Christian period.


It is cruciform in shape, with an elongated nave in the Latin cross form.The central space is dominated both externally and internally by one of the largest domes in the world.
  The entrance is through a narthex, or entrance hall, which stretches across the building. One of the decorated bronze doors leading from the narthex is the Holy Door, only opened in Holy Years.
 The nave which leads to the central dome is in three bays, with piers supporting a barrel-vault, the highest of any church. The nave is framed by wide aisles which have a number of chapels off them. There are also chapels surrounding the dome.
  The four cherubs, two each side on the first piers of the nave, holds  basin of Holy water. Each one is 2 meters in high.
 At the heart of the basilica, beneath the high altar, is the Confessio or Chapel of the Confession, in reference to the confession of faith by St Peter, which lead to his martyrdom. Two curving  staircases lead to this underground chapel at the level of the Constantinian church.  Its marble steps are remnants of the old basilica and around its balustrade are 95 bronze lamps.

 
 The baldacchino, a pavilion-like structure 30 metres (98 ft) tall and claimed to be the largest piece of bronze in the world. The concept was from the baldachin or canopy carried above the head of the pope in processions, and in part from eight ancient columns that had formed part of a screen in the old basilica. Their twisted barley-sugar shape had a special significance as the column to which Jesus was bound before his crucifixion was believed to be of that shape. They created four huge columns of bronze, twisted and decorated with olive leaves and bees, which were the emblem of Pope Urban.
 According to Origen, Peter was crucified head downwards, by his own request because he considered himself unworthy to die in the same manner as Jesus. The crucifixion took place near an ancient Egyptian obelisk in the Circus of Nero. The obelisk now stands in Saint Peter's Square and is revered as a "witness" to Peter's death. It is one of several ancient Obelisks of Rome.
 
  Around the basilica are: The Baptistery, the Chapel of the Presentation of the Virgin, the larger Choir Chapel, the Clementine Chapel with the altar of St Gregory, the Sacristy Entrance, the left transept with altars to the Crucifixion of St Peter, St Joseph and St Thomas, the altar of the Sacred Heart, the Chapel of the Madonna of Colonna, the altar of St Peter and the Paralytic, the apse with St Peter's Cathedra, the altar of St Peter raising Tabitha, the altar of the Archangel Michael, the altar of the Navicella, the right transept with altars of St Erasmus, Saints Processo and Martiniano, and St Wenceslas, the altar of St Basil, the Gregorian Chapel with the altar of the Madonna of Succour, the larger Chapel of the Holy Sacrament, the Chapel of St Sebastian and the Chapel of the Piet, and Chapel of Blessed John Paul II.

 
 
 
The Basilica of St. Peter is one of four Papal Basilicas or Major Basilicas of Rome the others being the Basilica of St. John Lateran, Santa Maria Maggiore and St. Paul outside the Walls. It is the most prominent building in the Vatican City. Its dome is a dominant feature of the skyline of Rome. 
  The Chair of Saint Peter is a relic conserved in St. Peter's Basilica, enclosed in a gilt bronze casing that was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed 1647-53. 
 There are over 100 tombs within St. Peter's Basilica (extant to various extents), many located in the Vatican grotto, beneath the Basilica. These include 91 popes, St. Ignatius of Antioch, Holy Roman Emperor Otto II, and the composer Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina. Exiled Catholic British royalty James Francis Edward Stuart and his two sons, Charles Edward Stuart and Henry Benedict Stuart, are buried here, having been granted asylum by Pope Clement XI. Also buried here are Maria Clementina Sobieska, wife of James Francis Edward Stuart, Queen Christina of Sweden, who abdicated her throne in order to convert to Catholicism, and Countess Matilda of Tuscany, supporter of the Papacy during the Investiture Controversy. The most recent interment was Pope John Paul II, on 8 April 2005.Later the remains were  moved inside the basilica. 

 



SAINT PETER'S SQUARE

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Saint Peter's Square  is located directly in front of St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City.
photo of the St. Peter's square taken from the Cupola
The open space basilica was redesigned as a  forecourt "so that the greatest number of people could see the Pope give his blessing, either from the middle of the facade of the church or from a window in the Vatican Palace
the Vatican Palace
 The colossal Tuscan colonnades, four columns deep, frame the trapezoidal entrance to the basilica.
 
The Egyptian obelisk marked a center of the square . It is a red granite and stands 25.5 meters tall.In 1817 circular stones were set to mark the tip of the obelisk's shadow at noon as the sun entered each of the signs of the zodiac, making the obelisk a gigantic sundial's
 







VATICAN CITY - THE HOLY SEAT OF CHRISTIANITY

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When I first arrived here in Italy, I immediately went to Vatican. Ever since then I would always  make it a point to visit Vatican   every time I'm in Rome.
The Vatican City  or Vatican City State,  is a landlocked sovereign city-state whose territory consists of a walled enclave within the city of Rome, Italy.It is the smallest independent state in the world by both area and population.
 Within the territory of Vatican City are the Vatican Gardens it occupies almost   half of the State which  are decorated with fountains and sculptures.
 The Vatican have its own bank, radio station and post office.It is also here where you can find the Sistine Chapel( BTW, no pictures allowed inside the chapel.
 Of course the most famous structure is the St. Peter's Basilica with its impressive Dome just right in front of the St. Peter's Square
 
 Swiss Guard serves as personal bodyguard of the Pope.It is said that  recruitment is arranged by a special agreement between the Holy See and Switzerland. All recruits must be Catholic, unmarried males with Swiss citizenship who have completed their basic training with the Swiss Army with certificates of good conduct, be between the ages of 19 and 30, and be at least 175 cm (5 ft 9 in) in height. Members are armed with small arms and the traditional halberd (also called the Swiss voulge), and trained in body guarding tactics.
 
 


Be aware that the Dress Code is strictly enforced at St. Peter's Basilica. No shorts, bare shoulders or miniskirts. This applies to both men and women. I saw a lot of frustrated visitors who were not allowed to enter the Basilica after  queuing for hours only to be denied entry.