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Friday, April 9, 2010

the Vatican Museum

I woke up early on my first day in Rome. Well, not horribly early, but earlier than anyone else in my room. Breakfast, and the internet downstairs, opened at a certain hour so I waited until then to head downstairs for food and then out for the day. As I mentioned in my last post, free/already paid for food was vital to maintaining happiness and staying on budget so I was not to miss breakfast. After eating toast or cereal, I can't remember which one, I stole some packaged croissants and headed out for my busy day. I had 2 days to see a LOT of sights so I had to get started.

My plan was to start the day in the Vatican which is on the other side of the city as my hostel so I hopped on the Rome Metro. The metro was nice...clean and not too crowded for being around 9AM. Their ticket machines also took cash...holla! 10 minutes later I emerged from underground and headed in the direction of the Vatican museum. As I came around one corner and saw the Vatican wall for the first time, I was a little floored. It was as if I had came upon a castle trying to keep out any and all people. It was huge!!!

I walked up the block, found the entrance to the Vatican Museum and headed inside. The price of admission was 14Euro ($21) which was the most expensive European museum I visited the entire trip. But it was worth it...almost. Only about half of the exhibits had English translations so that was where it fell short. But the rest was terrific! Having no expectations about it except knowing it was where the Sistine Chapel is located, I think had a definite affect on my opinion towards the museum. Not knowing what others thought or what kinds of things to look out for was very interesting.

The mummy exhibit was very interesting, but very similar to the Lourve so nothing spectacular. Imhotep's tomb is in the Vatican though so my "Mummy" loving heart jumped a little upon seeing that. The museum is a massive maze...I had no idea where in the building I was at any point...I just followed the signs that led me from exhibit to exhibit. I was astounded by all the artwork, especially the collection of statues and sculptures. Not only were there a huge number of them in the open exhibit halls, but I came upon multiple closed off hallways filled with sculptures and items. Really spectacular.

After viewing the mummies, sculptures, bathtubs and the hall of maps the museum led me into Raphael's apartments. What I didn't know until walking into the apartments was that the museum used to be the living quarters of the Pope so Raphael's apartments are the former rooms of the Pope who commissioned Raphael to paint the frescoes in each room. There are 3 or 4 rooms in total and all 4 walls in each large room are painted floor to ceiling. The ceilings also each have a unique depiction painted upon them. For example, some of the paintings showed Raphael's interpretation of the coronations of various Popes. They were fascinating, beautiful and really wonderful to look at. The immense amount of talent needed to do what Raphael and his apprentices did is impossible for me to imagine. So much skill...

Up next after Raphael's apartments was the modern art exhibit. Though I'm not too into modern art, I did enjoy this section as it had many paintings and pieces of art showing the crucifixion of Jesus. Most of the artwork I've seen depicting the crucifixion are realistic looking, fascinating and many of them are hundreds of years old. These modern pieces were just as fascinating, just because they were just so unique and different than what I was used to seeing.

After the modern art exhibit it was finally time to see the Sistine Chapel, the last segment of the Vatican Museum. My knowledge of the Sistine Chapel begins and ends in elementary school. I don't know what grade it was, probably 5th, but I remember seeing a video about Michaelangelo painting the chapel's ceiling. He was laying on his back on top of a lot of scaffolding and paint was dripping in his eye. So that was my pretext to the Sistine Chapel and like I said before, having no expectations was wonderful. The Sistine Chapel is GORGEOUS and indescribable. My jaw dropped the moment I walked in and it took awhile for my brain to gain back function enough to close it.

Photographs are not allowed inside the chapel, but in all honesty any pictures I could have taken would not have done it any justice. The chapel is the tourist mecca for the entire museum so it was crowded when I arrived. Not horribly, claustrophobic crowded but there were enough people to make me not want to stand in the middle. They have benches lining the walls so you can sit and look up; I took a seat on a bench along the back wall and it was the perfect view. I could see the entire ceiling well enough and I had a full view of the frescoe on the wall behind the altar. It was that frescoe that I spent at least 5 minutes staring at it as it was so beautiful. So gorgeous. There were just so many elements to it to look at and admire and soak in. I didn't know what any of it meant, but it didn't matter.

After telling myself multiple times "just 1 more minute of staring" I finally, and reluctantly, got up off the bench and exited the chapel, looking back at the gorgeous work of art one last time. There was still much to see.

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