Monday, 23 August 2010

St Peters Basilica

Our first day in Rome was mainly spent outside of Italy….in the Vatican City. We caught the Metro to St Peters, where we looked around Piazza San Pietro, designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini

The Piazza is surrounded by 284 columns in rows of 4. 

When you stand on this circluar disc in the Piazza, you can only see the first row of columns.

As soon as you stand to the side of the circle, you start to see the 4 rows of columns.

Services are held outside St Peters for pilgrims.  Pope Benedict XVI was away at his Summer house in Tuscany when we visited.

Then we headed into St Peter's Basilica.

It is an amazing space. Every surface is adorned with beautiful paintings, sculture, metalwork and so forth.

One of the smaller domes.

A memorial plate for one of the previous Popes.
Part of the ceiling
The main altar

Gorgeous marble sculptures like this are everywhere.
The main dome, with fantastic sunlight streaming through the top.
Michaelangelo's Madonna and Child. The only statue Michaelangelo signed.
The beautiful stain glass window behind the main altar of a single dove.
We then climbed the 516 steps to the top of the Dome. (It advertised 551, but this was our tally!).
It is the tallest dome in the world, at 136.57 metres tall.  The internal diameter is 41.47 meters, which is slightly smaller than the Pantheon and the Florence Cathedral.  It was really hot in the narrow stairwell, and at times around the dome we were walking on angles.

The view from the top was great, looking over Rome and into the Vatican (the walk up was well worth it). We spotted a grass-fire in a nearby suburb, and watched as a firebombing helicopter swooped in to do its job.
Piazza San Pietro
Behind St Peters are private grounds in the Vatican City

It was another very hot day, and it was great that there was a fountain and toilets half way down. These fountains became our saviours around Italy – we would refill our waterbottles with cold, fresh water and drink it by the litre. Often we would take a splash as well to cool off.

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