Visiting Vatican City
The Vatican City is an ecclesiastical or sacerdotal-monarchical state (a type of theocracy) ruled by the pope

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Within the Vatican City are religious and cultural sites such as St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums. They feature some of the world's most famous paintings and sculptures. The unique economy of Vatican City is supported financially by the sale of postage stamps and souvenirs, fees for admission to museums, and sales of publications.
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Rome, Italy’s capital, is a sprawling, cosmopolitan city with nearly 3,000 years of globally influential art, architecture and culture on display. Ancient ruins such as the Forum and the Colosseum evoke the power of the former Roman Empire. Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, has St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, which house masterpieces such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes.
The popes were among the very first royalty to open their vast art collections to public viewing. Pope Julius II 1443 - 1513 began collecting sculpture during the Renaissance and, ever since, most popes have taken an active interest in art and in commissioning the best artists of their time. Today you can view the Vatican's incredible collection while touring the so-called 'Vatican Museums', a huge complex of galleries and museums showcasing painting, sculpture, frescoes, tapestries and classical antiquities including Roman, Greek and Egyptian. There are, of course, also collections of religious art, papal portraits and, less obviously, carriages and automobiles. Any visit to the Vatican should also include the famous Sistine Chapel and Raphael's Rooms. Leave plenty of time for winding your way through the museums and the narrow connecting corridors and staircases.
Vatican City was created in 1929 and run by the Pope who is the supreme monarch. The official population is a little over 800 and it covers an area of 110 acres 44 hectares. Within the walls of the city are St Peter's Basilica, St Peter's Square, the Vatican Museums, the residence of the Pope and offices of the Catholic Church. Being a separate state, the Vatican has its own postage stamps, and the official language is Latin as well as Italian. It has its own bank and the world's only ATM with instructions in Latin Although it uses the euro, the Vatican does issue its own coins. The economy revolves around tourism, printing, mosaics and manufacturing uniforms who knew. There are two forces for law and order one is the Gendarmerie, who keep order, the other is the Swiss Guard notable for their crazy yellow, blue and red uniforms the Pope's personal bodyguard since 1506. All 134 members are indeed from Switzerland.
St Peter's Basilica was built between 1506 and 1590, when the dome was finally completed. It is on the site of the tomb of St. Peter his relics were finally found and authenticated in the middle of the 20th century. Before the current grand basilica, a 4th-century church built by Emperor Constantine stood here. This is a church like no other. It is huge and full of significant artworks and tombs, including that of Pope John Paul II. One of the most beautiful pieces is the marble Pieta by Michelangelo just inside the door on the right. It is now behind bullet proof glass after being attacked by an art-hating lunatic in 1972. If you can time your visit with a Mass, you will see the most important hierarchy of the Catholic Church come to worship in their red robes and hats. Climbing to the top of the dome gives a wonderful view over the piazza and Bernini's enclosing colonnade below, and across Rome.
St. Peter's Square Piazza San Pietro is the grand colonnaded area in front of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican. A visually imposing entry to this great church, the semi-circular colonnades on either side designed by the Roman Baroque sculptor Bernini, seem to reach out and enfold you in their arms. Within the colonnade lies the security-check for entry to St. Peter's and, on the other side, the Vatican post office, because the Vatican is its own municipality with its own stamps. During times such as the death of a pope or election of a new one, and at Easter and Christmas, the piazza is jammed with pilgrims from all over the world.
Covering over half of the Vatican city-state, the Vatican Gardens expand over an impressive 23 hectares. They were essentially a rough expanse of orchards and vineyards early in the 13th century until 1279, when Pope Nicolas III decided to move his residence from the Lateran Palace to the back of the Vatican and had the gardens enclosed with a wall. In the 16th century, Pope Julius II had architect Donato Bramante, creator of the famous Bramante Staircase in the Vatican Museums, split the gardens into three sections. Bramante reworked the gardens in the Renaissance design, installed a giant labyrinth, introduced Lebanese Cedars and built a fortified stone wall that still stands to this day. Although the Vatican Gardens are closed to the general public, they can be seen by specialized tours. Those who visit will find expansive and well-manicured gardens and lawns, fountains, priceless works of art and a number of buildings.
Popes have been interred in St. Peter’s Basilica for centuries, and while many papal tombs are inside the basilica, others are located underground in the Vatican Grottoes. Take the stairs down from the transept to view the final resting places of dozens of popes along with a number of royals. The Basics The Vatican Grottoes sit below the modern basilica but above the level of the first Christian Roman Emperor Constantine’s original 4th-century basilica. The earliest pope buried in the grottoes is the 9th-century Pope Nicholas I; Pope Paul VI and Pope John Paul II are also interred there. In addition, the tombs of Queen Christina of Sweden, Emperor Otto II, and Queen Charlotte of Cyprus are located inside along with a number of ornately decorated chapels and a 14th-century fresco of the Madonna by Pietro Cavallini. Due to the long lines to enter St. Peter’s Basilica and the grottoes, by far the best way to visit is to join a skip-the-line Vatican tour that includes the church and underground tombs. Most small-group tours combine the basilica with other Vatican City highlights like the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and Vatican Gardens. Things to Know Before You Go St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Grottoes are sacred places and have a very strict dress code to enter, so be sure to wear clothing that covers shoulders and knees. Entry to the basilica requires a security check in St. Peter’s Square; large bags, suitcases, pocketknives, scissors, corkscrews, umbrellas, and other prohibited items can be left in the free cloakroom. The Vatican Grottoes are not accessible to wheelchairs. How to Get There Entrance to the Vatican Grottoes is below the St. Andrew statue near the papal altar inside St. Peter’s Basilica, located on St. Peter’s Square (Piazza San Pietro) in Vatican City. The closest metro station is Ottaviano. When to Get There You can visit the grottoes whenever the basilica is open. Note that the basilica closes each Wednesday morning during the weekly papal audience. St. Peter’s Tomb The tomb of St. Peter is not in the Vatican Grottoes, but one level below in the Scavi (archaeological dig), accessible only via a private tour that you must book months in advance through the Vatican’s Excavations Office.
Part of its fame is directly related to the papacy The Sistine Chapel is where cardinals gather to elect a new pope known as the Papal Conclave. The primary reason for its fame is pure art the ceiling fresco painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. The huge fresco depicts the creation of the world and - despite the often shoulder-to-shoulder crowds in the Sistine Chapel - packs a powerful artistic punch heightened by a recent renovation here that brought back the true color and depth of the original work. Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel between 1537 1541 to paint the magnificent 'Last Judgment' fresco on the altar wall. Few people leave a Sistine Chapel tour without feeling moved by Michelangelo's work. The chapel itself is named after Pope Sixtus IV, who renovated an old chapel and commissioned the first artworks here. The chapel contains important works byRenaissance heavyweights such as Raphael, Bernini, and Botticelli.
Raphael's Rooms Stanze di Raffaello are four interconnected rooms in the Vatican which have frescoes painted by the renowned Renaissance artist Raphael 1483 - 1520. These late Renaissance frescoes are the second-most famous in the Vatican's collection, only behind the fresco adorning the roof of the Sistine Chapel. Raphael's themes for his frescoes were religion and politics he often swapped portraits of the incumbent pope for the faces of important figures. Originally commissioned by Pope Julius II in the early 1500s, the frescoes were patronized by Pope Leo X after Julius died in 1513. When Raphael also died in 1520, artists from his studio finished the paintings. The 'Segnatura' room was the first to be decorated and contains Raphael's most famous painting, The School of Athens. The other rooms are known as 'Constantine', 'Heliodorus' and 'Fire in the Borgo'.

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