Insights into the Vatican in Italy: UNESCO’s Holy City near Rome

St. Peter's Square in the early morning.

Image via Wikipedia

English: Wide angle View of the altar inside S...

English: Wide angle View of the altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Façade of St. Peter's Basilica as see...

English: Façade of St. Peter’s Basilica as seen from Saint Peter’s Square. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: Crepuscular rays in Saint Peter's Bas...

English: Crepuscular rays in Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

English: A 5x6 segment panoramic image taken b...

English: A 5×6 segment panoramic image taken by myself with a Canon 5D and 70-200mm f/2.8L lens from the dome of St Peter’s in Vatican City in Rome. Français: Image panoramique composée de 5×6 photos prises par David Iliff à l’aide d’un appareil Canon 5D et une lentille 70-200mm f/2.8L à partir du dôme de la Basilique Saint-Pierre au Vatican. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Vatican City is the world’s smallest independent state and occupies 109 acres. It has been a sovereign state since 1929 and is ruled by the Pope.

The Vatican is the  residence of the spiritual leadership of the Roman Catholic Church.

Its territory is surrounded by the Italian capital city Rome. Priests and nuns make up most of the population.

The Vatican City is a small remnant of the former Papal States of central Italy. These Papal States were conquered by the forces of Italian unification in the mid-19th century.  At that time, the popes became “prisoners in the Vatican”.

They were unwilling to leave the confines of the Apostolic Palace until 1929. Finally, the Italian Fascist government negotiated the Lateran Treaty that created the current mini-state.

Francis, the current pope is the first Latin American to be elected to the position. Formerly archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was chosen to succeed Pope Benedict XVI, who reigned from 2005 until 2013.

 

Swiss Guards, dressed in traditional ceremonial dress, are responsible for the security of the Pope

 

Pilgrimage

The Vatican City itself packs many imposing buildings into its small area: St Peter’s Basilica (completed in the early 17th century) and the Vatican Museums and Art Galleries that are repositories of the priceless art collections of the popes.

Pilgrims travel from all over the world to gather in St Peter’s Square for various ceremonies, such as this beatification of Pope John Paul II in May 2011.

Magnificent works of art are housed in the Holy City. Rome’s grand churches were built in the following order: Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Neo-Classical.  Most of the exquisite Baroque monuments and buildings were erected during the 16th and 17th centuries. Many ancient churches have received newer facades.

Sack_of_Rome_by_the_Visigoths_on_24_August_410...

Sack_of_Rome_by_the_Visigoths_on_24_August_410_by_JN_Sylvestre_1890. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On May 6, 1527, the Sack of Rome was perpetrated by German Lutheran and Spanish Catholic troops who resented the wealth of the papacy. The soliers entered the Vatican as Pope Clement VII was saying a mass in the Sistine Chapel. Swiss Guards were being slaughtered in St. Peter’s Square and the pope was brought to safety in Castel Sant’Angelo.

Sack of Rome of 1527

Sack of Rome of 1527 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

St. Peter's Basilica, believed to be the buria...

St. Peter’s Basilica, believed to be the burial site of St. Peter, seen from the River Tiber. The iconic dome dominates the skyline of Rome. St. Peter’s Basilica from the River Tiber. The iconic dome dominates the skyline of Rome. Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Christianity became the dominant religion of Western Civilization when the Roman Empire converted to Christianity. St. Peter’s Basilica, believed to be the burial site of St. Peter, seen from the River Tiber. Saint Peter’s Basilica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Roman Emperor Constantine (306-337 AD) joined the Christians and before he moved to Constantinople he built several churches in Rome. San Giovanni in Laterano, St. Peter’s Basilica and San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura were all built during Constantine’s reign. Talent and leadership abandoned the newly divided empire and successive waves of Barbarians invaded Rome including the Visigoths, Vandals and the Ostrogoths. By 800 AD, Emperor Charlemagne asserted papal authority and launched another power struggle between the Church and imperial authority. By 1309, the pope moved to the safety of Avignon.

Tomb of pope Julius II by Michelangelo, church...

Tomb of pope Julius II by Michelangelo, church San Pietro in Vincoli; Rome, Italy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Rome’s imperial legacy lived on in the Catholic Church where Roman senators became bishops, scholars became monks, and philosophers became theologians. The pope or high priest adopted the title originally held by the emperor; “Pontifex Maximus.” Look for this word in the Latin inscriptions in Rome. The grandeur of church rituals is reminiscent of the glory days of Julius Caesar.

The papacy’s supremacy returned to Rome in 1377. In the 1500’s, a glorious rebirth of Rome flourished when the popes invited the most talented architects, painters and sculptors to rebuild Rome’s grandeur during the Renaissance. On April 18, 1506 Pope Julius II (Giuliano Della Rovere) laid the cornerstone for the new Basilica of Saint Peter. Saint Peter’s magnificent basilica was built above the site where Peter the Apostlewas crucified, martyred and buried in the year 64.

Ancient statue of St. Peter in St. Peter's Bas...

Ancient statue of St. Peter in St. Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Possibly the work of Atnolfo di Cambio. Thought by some historians to be much older. Crop of original pic (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro...

Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter by Pietro Perugino (1481-82) Fresco, 335 x 550 cm Cappella Sistina, Vatican. Ελληνικά: Λεπτομέρεια από την νωπογραφία του Πιέτρο Περουτζίνο, Ο Χριστός Παραδίδει τα Κλειδιά στον Πέτρο, 335 x 600 cm, Καπέλα Σιξτίνα, Πόλη του Βατικανού. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1506, Bramante was commissioned by Pope Julius II to renovate St. Peter’s Basilica, originally built by Constantine from 324-329. Emperor Constantine built a glorious crown for St. Peter’s tomb over the site where his bones were preserved. St. Peter was the first apostle and the first pope. Since Rome is a place of pilgrimage, a “Scave Tour” is available with advanced reservations and allows you to visit the tomb of St. Peter and the archeological excavations beneath the basilica. Travel from the Baroque church to the Romanesque sanctuary to the Roman cemetery and tomb of Peter the Apostle. The crypt is located under the Papal Altar.

Dr. EveAnn Lovero writes Travel Guides At www.vino-con-vista.com

English: Bernini's "Gloria" surmount...

English: Bernini’s “Gloria” surmounting the “Cathedra Petri”, also by him. Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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