One of the major reasons behind our trip to Rome was that there is a statue at the Vatican that is very important to Scotty’s research. Scotty has spent so much time reading, research, and writing about this statue it was a very exciting prospect to actually see it. While most of you are probably scratching your head about the importance of a statue, it has a huge historical significance due to the fact that the works of Hippolytus are inscribed on its plinth. Of course, since the statue is very old, time has taken its toll and there is a fairly important level if controversy over what the plinth actually says. There’s a whole lot more about this statue (including the fact that it may not even be Hippolytus) but a Roman goddess. Strange, I know. Anyway, Scotty’s been researching it for a while and I’ve been hearing about it for just about as long and so we were both excited to see it. The problem was that we didn’t know exactly where it was – and that information is not readily available. Information on the layout of Vatican City is not readily available – for obvious security purposes. So we decided we’d just try and find it.
We had our Roma passes in hand and made our way to the metro – oops, they’re on strike. OK, we’ll take the bus. Umm, due to the metro being closed, the busses are completely packed. OK, we’ll walk. No biggie. It’s a long walk but it’s scenic and we were soon standing in that enormous courtyard in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. What an amazing sight. I loved thinking about it jammed packed full of people waiting to hear the Pope speak. We got our tickets to the Vatican Museums and made our way there – which means we exited Vatican City proper, and circled halfway around outside the City walls. So funny. The museum collections are some of the best in the world, as you would expect. Ancient statues, beautiful works of art, tapestries. I didn’t take any pictures because I think that pictures of museum pieces are boring and the lighting is never right so they don’t turn out right. But the Sistine Chapel was definitely worth trying to capture a bit of it.
It really is amazing. Very different from what I expected but so beautiful. Some of the pictures are so lifelike they look as though they’re leaping off the ceiling. Since it’s one of the most famous of the Vatican’s many attractions, it was pretty crowded. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be able to visit the Chapel alone and stare at these scenes in silence. I think it would be profoundly moving. But Hippolytus was calling and we had soon made our way through all the public galleries. We asked a half-dozen guards where the library was but no one actually seemed to know. Strange, huh? They were all very helpful but the advice was all contradictory. So, once we were through visiting the museums we made our way to this gate leading right into the more restricted areas of Vatican City. From what Scotty had been able to find out about the statue everything said that you only needed a letter if you needed to go into the Vatican Library for research. Well Hippolytus sits outside the library and we didn’t really realize how strict the restrictions for entering are until we tried to get in. Hmmmm. One of the Swiss Guards said there was no way we were getting in without a letter. Shoot. Well, I was not about to be defeated so we asked about the nearest internet cafe. Long story short, we spent a couple hours at the internet cafe, skyped a few extremely helpful people at New College, and returned to the gates with the letter. Well that we enough to get us past the Swiss Guards but not the Gendarmerie. Two of the guards were great – one was a big football fan and they made a few calls, got Scotty to talk to one of the sisters, and told us to come back in an hour. OK, we can do that. Let’s go check out St. Peters.
St. Peters is a somber, worshipful, and beautiful place. The sheer scale of it is inspiring, the beauty immense. When we arrived a men and boys choir was rehearsing and the splendor of the building combined with the ethereal sounds was very moving. We made our way to the front and soaked it all in.
If the choir had kept singing I would have stood there for hours. But they were soon finished and I wanted to see the Pieta – one of my favorite sculptures – and, incidentally, the only work actually signed by Michelangelo!
Well at this point our hour was up so we made our way back to the Gendarmerie. A couple more phone calls and the guard was making out a pass for us! It’s officially our favorite souvenir from our trip! We made our way through the winding streets of Vatican City – where taking pictures would probably result in the revocation of our pass – and made our way to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana We were met by a lovely nun from Connecticut who let us in to the Vatican Library where we found our long-sought after Hippolytus. Whew! We hung out with the statue until the library closed and Scotty found some interesting things that will help him with his paper! Mission accomplished.
Next we walked along the Tiber and past the Castel Sant’Angelo and across Pont Sant’Angelo. The sun was setting and it was lovely.
We had some dinner and checked out the Spanish Steps and several famous piazzas. I really didn’t take too many pictures – we were tired, having walked well over 12 miles that day – and I can tell you that marble makes for some gorgeous floors and sidewalks but it is not easy on your feet!
A very full day – but I think that is what you can expect when you’re visiting this place. Tomorrow it’s off to the Colosseum and I can’t wait.