Rosh Hashanah – Giorno Tre
I know this is a bit late, but I wanted to finish the trilogy!
On the third day of the Jewish New Year, I decided to go for the whole megilla (deal) …the Trinity, and visit another chiesa (church). I’d yet to see during our stay in Roma the Basilica di San Pietro, St. Peters. So I figured, if you’re Jewish and going to go to church during the Jewish high holy days, why not visit the BIG ONE.
Off to St. Peter’s Basilica I went. I was glad to be visiting alone, as the line to get in was long. I’ve found that it’s always easier being short of stature to scurry up in the line when you’re traveling solo! (Sorry if you were in front of me and I wormed in front of you; but it’s unlikely you were part of a German or Korean tour group that day and are now reading my blog!).
The whole of St. Peter’s Square is imposing. It’s surrounded by a Doric—pillared colonnade composed of 284 columns, atop which sit statues of 140 saints. The Vatican, the world’s smallest city-state, is guarded by the Swiss Guard, who to this day dress in uniforms reputedly designed by Michelangelo. But even the Square pales in comparison to what you’ll find after passing through several security checkpoints and finally entering the Basilica.
Originally built by Constantine around 326 AD, the Basilica was built on the site where St. Peter was buried following his crucifixion in 64 AD. In 1452 the church was in such disrepair that Pope Nicolas V resolved to build a new Basilica. After several false starts, it was finally rebuilt and mostly completed in the 1500s and 1600s. Michelangelo is responsible for much of the dome and Bernini finished the façade and interior.
The grandeur is overwhelming. There is so much gilt, marble and mosaics that one can’t help but be in awe of such wealth. I viewed one of the Vatican’s greatest treasurers, the Pieta, a sculpture created by Michelangelo while in his 20’s, of Mary, shown as a young woman holding Jesus after the crucifixion. It now sits behind glass after having been vandalized in the 1970’s.
I’ve attached some photos, including the baldacchino (canopy) which rests over the papal alter. The baldacchino was created by Bernini and sits below the dome created by Michelangelo. I hope the photos will give you a brief feeling for the scale, lushness and sacredness of St. Peter’s if you’ve never visited.
I also visited the Vatican grottoes below, which contain the tombs of the Popes, both modern and ancient, along with a few queens who converted to Catholicism and were banished from their home countries when they converted. They were given funerals in the Basilica and honored by being buried in the grotto. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed in the grotto.
And on the 4th day of the New Year, I rested.