When in Rome...

We spent the Christmas holiday in Rome. As someone who longed to be an Archaeologist as a child (and still do), this was a dream come true!
Remember my post on Vicenzia and the relaxed Italian way of life? This became more evident when we flew into Rome and waited for our bags. We waited in the baggage claim area for over an hour and a half before we finally got our luggage!

Cristo dela Minerva
The church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
The first day, we paid for an all day car escort of the city. Our driver took us on a very fast paced highlighted tour of the city. This was great because we got to see so much in such a small amount of time, and it allowed us to get our bearings around the city. It also allowed us to note the places we wanted to return to over the next couple of days. While driving us around, our driver would give us a little history lesson on the different areas we were going to. The first stop was the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva, this holds the Cristo dela Minerva also known as Christ the Redeemer or Christ Carrying the Cross by the famous Michelangelo. The church alone was an amazing work of art, I was so distracted by its beauty I totally walked by the Cristo dela Minerva the first time, Chris had to point it out to me! Saint Catherine of Siena is buried here (except her head, which is in the Basilica of San Domenico in Siena) as well as as is Pope Paul IV and the Medici popes Leo X and Clement VII.

Inside the Pantheon
The Pantheon
The Santa Maria sorpra is very close to the Pantheon, so this was our next stop. This was incredible, this massive structure is the best preserved  of all the Roman buildings. To the right is an interior picture. I was in awe of its majestic beauty and stature, but imagine coming to this building in 250 A.D. It was simply amazing!

Inside the Colosseum
We then went to the Colosseum. This massive structure was capable of seating 50,000 people, and was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles such as mock sea battles, animal hunts, executions, re-enactments of famous battles, and dramas based on Classical mythology.

Egyptian Obelisk with cross

Obviously, Rome is a very religious city. All throughout the city is historical evidence of the Christian religion trumping Pagan religions; various leaders, and religious figureheads were certain to make this known. There are eight obelisks that were taken from Ancient Egypt, atop everyone of them is a Christian cross. We saw similiar things in ruins, artwork, and statues throughout the city.

Ruins of the Roman Forum
One of my favorite stops was walking around the ruins of the Roman Forum. We got an audio guide, but it was useless. I recommend bringing a book that describes everything (you can also get one from the gift shop before you enter, I'm still kicking myself for not doing that).

After we'd been driven around most of the city (my head was spinning at this point with all the history and sites that I'd just seen) we went to Vatican City. Here we met our personal tour guide. She was an Italian originally from Canada, and had gotten her Master's Degree on the Sistine Chapel. She was very knowledgeable about the history and artwork around the Vatican. The amount of artwork in the Vatican will blow your mind. There are statues, paintings, tapestries, mosaics, and frescoes that date back hundreds and hundreds of years! It really helped having our personal tour guide, I think it helped us appreciate everything we were seeing more than if we just walked through alone.
Belvedere Torso
To the left is the Belvedere Torso. It was originally thought to date back to the 1st century B.C., but is now believed to be a copy of an older statue, likely dating to the 2nd century B.C. It isn't clear who the statue is, but is most commonly thought to be Heracles sitting on an animal skin. The sculpture is significant in that it is the first example of a perfect human body, and it greatly influenced late Renaissance, Mannerist, and Baroque artists.

The Sistine Chapel was simply amazing. When I walked in I gasped at the beauty and history that was surrounding me. Before we started our tour, our guide gave us a history lesson on what we were about to see, which made the experience even better.

The altar with Bernini's baldacchino
Saint Peter's Basilica was massive. When you see all these massive structures and beautiful works of art it is easy to see how Christianity has flourished so much in the past. Everything was intimidating for me, imagine what it must have been like living in that time. All you know is what the church tells you. You go from your small home to these massive beautiful places to worship. All the artwork and structures you see show Christianity as the dominating religion. It's all very interesting to me.

The Pietà sculpted by Michelangelo

The nearly empty tour
For some reason (even our guide wasn't sure why) there were hardly any people at the Vatican on the day we went. She said people pay 400 Euro for the off hours tours to get the atmosphere we got! She said normally you have to fight the crowds to see everything.
Pope Benedict XVI
The next day (Christmas Eve) Chris and I went back to Saint Peter's Square for Christmas Eve Mass. We didn't have tickets to go inside so we stood outside with thousands of other people and watched Mass on the jumbo screens. I am not Catholic, but my mother is, and I've gone to Catholic Mass with her a few times. It was really interesting to see the traditions and ceremonies that I'd seen so many times being performed by Pope Benedict XVI.
Christmas Day, we went back to Saint Peter's Square to get the Christmas Blessing from Pope Benedict XVI. He gives the blessing in 32 languages. It was an incredible way to spend Christmas.

I also got to do a little Roman Holiday tour. I absolutly LOVE that movie, so I was really excited when I got to see The Mouth of Truth (but it was closed so I couldn't get a picture with my hand in it). I also ate chocolate gelato on the Spanish Steps, walked around the ruins of the Roman Forum, and threw three coins into the Trevi Fountain!

There is far too much information and sites to tell you about everything we saw; it is one of the birthplaces of Western civilization after all! I cannot recommend a trip to Rome highly enough. Also, whether or not you are a Catholic or any Christian faith, you must tour Vatican City

The Mouth of Truth

Exterior of Colosseum

When these maps were referenced with Google Maps, they were over 80% accurate. Amazing when you think of the lack of technology of the era!

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