Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Hodgepodge 151/365 - Vatican Museum

No photos allowed inside the Sistine Chapel
—besides which, it's full of people;
so this is from the Vatican website

The reason I decided to come to Italy is simple and silly: when I was here in 2006, I visited the Vatican Museum, including the Sistine Chapel, where I managed to find a seat on the bench along the wall and gape for quite a while at Michelan- gelo's magnificent ceiling. As I sat, the murmurings in the room would gradually build into a low roar, at which point— every five minutes or so—the guard would yell, "SILENZIO!" And immediately, there was quiet.

I wanted to hear that repeated.

Turns out—and this I should have known—you can't go home again.

Today there were several guards, mostly shooing people off the marble steps in front of the altar, or admonishing "No photos!" The chapel was crowded with restlessness. Just as I was getting ready to leave—having failed to secure a seat on the bench—a priest did, very friendly-like, exhort silenzio, as well as silence, from the altar and then go on to expound, first in English, then in Italian, on the holiness of the place and invite those assembled to pray silently while he offered up some words of praise in Latin. It was no simple, explosive command, but . . . a little speech, topped off with a benediction. More fitting, perhaps; but I wanted my memory validated.

That said, I had shuffled my way to the chapel without having seen the long series of halls lined by beautifully painted cabinets that, on one, bore the picture of the hoopoe that I hoped to revisit. Those ended up coming after the Sistine Chapel. And into the bargain, I spotted a common kingfisher, a favorite bird. So my disappointment over the chapel was alleviated.

One final comment: Rick Steves in his guide to Rome goes on at length about the lines to get into the Vatican Museum. It's enough to make you want to give up before you even try. As it turned out, there was no line. I waltzed right up to the ticket booth and paid my €16. I did follow his advice and go during the weekly papal audience, which may have helped. That is not to say that the place wasn't jam-packed. It was. But at least all my shuffling with a crowd took place inside the museum and not in a long queue of anticipation.

And so: mission accomplished.

Here are some of my photos from today.

Many tour groups: this one Korean.
The spiral ramp up to the main museum area.
Most people used the escalator and bypassed
this lovely space.
See? Crowds.
Grand architecture.
The Map Gallery, one of my favorite places in this museum.
A detail from the Map Gallery.
A colorful angel: no idea who she's talking to.
A working model for a Bernini angel
This statue pleased me no end!
Raphael's "Liberation of St. Peter."
A tour guide pontificating.
This hoopoe will have to make do for the live one
I failed to see in Israel.
Context: the hoopoe and kingfisher exist on cabinets
much like these: elaborately painted creations that
line a long stretch of rooms in this museum.

The staircase you take to leave the museum, also spiral.
St. Peter's Basilica from the Cortile della Pigna
St. Peter's from the front
Bernini's Colonnade, with a long line of people
waiting to get in to St. Peter's

And finally, a few shots from my post-Vatican wanderings, in Trastevere and the Parco Gianicolo, with wonderful views over Rome.

That's the Pantheon in the middle.
(Can you spot it in the photo above as well?)

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