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Climbing the Cupola of St. Peter’s Basilica for the Best View of Vatican City

I am no athlete. The most I’ve done aside from the sporadic trip to the gym was probably a short dance stint back in gradeschool (my Spice Girls and Backstreet Boys years, mostly), high school (school plays and whatnot) and early college. But I am no athlete. So this unexpected trek up the Catholic Church’s largest basilica’s gargantuan dome thing on top definitely knocked the wind out of me.

You can opt to pay EUR5 to ride the elevator up part of the way (which I did, and recommend to non-athletes like me), but alas, the rest of the pilgrimage to the top is on foot.

The roof of the basilica—you can see the backs of the saint statues that line the square!

You get to be up close and personal with the dome interiors—and see the tiny churchgoers and tourists bustling about beneath you!

The walls are lined with gorgeous mosaic—these things last forever!

Now for the rough part of the climb—the walls become narrower and narrower, steeper and steeper, and I swear as you reach the “curves” in the dome, the walls curve with them so you have to walk with your body hunched over or slanted!

I’m not sure if this is a well known thing-to-do at St. Peter’s, but if you haven’t done it, I highly recommend braving the climb…


St. Peter’s square is miniscule from above.

The office of the Vatican—

And there—do you see the Musei Vaticani and Sistine Chapel?

I was out of breath and thirsty as hell, but man were the views so worth the climb.

What seems to be a perfect Italian day~

On the way back down, there are gift shops and cafes in the middle floors/mid-levels

You can even go right up to the backs of the saints that line St. Peter’s square! They’re HUGE in person!

See the big dome? We were at the tippy top of that! This shot was taken by the saint statues at mid-level

You can’t even really see the people who are still up there! It’s so deceptively small, but climbing it was a real challenge!

And finally, on the way down, here’s me and my brother popping some chips for sustenance. Hahaha

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

(We actually shot a video the whole way up but my commentary is too embarassing hahaha)

Filed under italia italy roma rome vatican vaticano vaticani vatican city italy 2010 europe europa church basilica saint peter's st peter's peter san pietro basilica di san pietro piazza san pietro Architecture catholic church pope holy holy seat

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Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican City, Italia

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most visited and popular pilgrimage/tourist sites of the Catholic world. Over the course of my four or so visits to the place, I still haven’t quite gone around the entirety of the basilica. With hoardes of tourists bustling about all day, not to mention the long lines filing into the basilica, sometimes you’re left with not that much time to really explore the inside.

Usually, if you join a group tour, a visit to St. Peter’s is a staple when Rome & Vatican City¬†are on the itinerary. But because there is just sooo much to see and do and eat in Rome, there often isn’t much time devoted to a single place, St. Peter’s included. We actually had about 5 minutes inside the actual basilica (after a 2 hour or so wait in line) running around taking random photos like maniacs. These photos are when we went back after our tour (since we stayed in Rome for ten more days after) and gave ourselves ample time to really look at the artworks, walk (not run!) around and just absorb everything. Albeit, we still weren’t able to see everything, but at least we had more time than we normally did.

(Photo Above & Below) The famedPieta,depicting Mary cradling Jesus’ body after his death and crucifixion. The details, especially the lifelike flow and movement of the cloth, is just one of the awesome aspects of the works of masters of yore.

All around the basilica, little “chapels” line the halls. Marble columns, gold, and religious (and some might argue, masonic) iconography abound!

Cool emblem things like these are also to be found

This roof thing is the altar, and where the Pope is at when he holds mass here

Sewage type grates, also in gold

Statues of past Popes and their surrounding saints, angels, etc.

I love this metal wallpaper-like pattern. Kinda baroque ish.

Lots of light gorgeously filtering into the hallowed halls.

Everything here is just so ornate and rich. It’s actually ironic that the beautiful (and very very valuable & expensive) artifacts and architecture and properties of the Catholic Church that pilgrims and tourists all visit and revere today are the result of the manipulations, conquests, blackmail, bribery and other shady deeds of past popes, who used taxpayers’ and religious devotees’ money to amass incredible wealth and expand the Church’s reign. (Saw that on the discovery channel haha)

Makes you wonder how extreme the Church’s propaganda was in the olden times when Twitter and Facebook and the internet weren’t in existence yet. Ha.

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm + 24-70mmL

Filed under roma rome italy italia europe europa travel traveling traveler travels euro church catholic basilica cathedral saint peter st. peter's basilica di san pietro san pietro christian pope history italy 2010

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Piazza San Pietro, Vatican City, Italy

We must’ve visited the square 3 times during this trip, all for different reasons. First, as part of the tour, where we stood in line for almost 2 hours only to have 5 minutes inside the Basilica. That was also the day my sister’s SD card devastatingly got wiped.

So this, our second visit, was to retake the shots we lost, which were the ones of the exterior of the basilica as well as around the piazza. Luckily, it was better weather than the first visit! A rare occasion.

Seats already in place for the Papal Audience (which we would also be attending)

What I love about St. Peter’s, despite its usual crowdedness and hordes of tourists milling about, is that there’s something epic about it that you can’t deny. Angels & Demons wasn’t an exaggeration of how grand and spectacular the whole place is, even though the movie made use of CG.

Of course we went looking for the bas relief of the West Wind as featured in the book. But like most A&D related artifacts/stuff, it was behind fences and much too far to see :|

Photos: Canon 450D + 10-22mm

Filed under italia italy roma rome vatican vaticano piazza san pietro san pietro st. peter's basilica vatican city citte del vaticano europe travel travels religious cathedral angels and demons dan brown st. peter's square italy 2010