Click on the link above for a 360 degree view of the Sistine Chapel.
Hit the zoom button for a close-up view of the artwork on the ceiling and walls of the chapel.
Aerial View of Vatican City
St. Peter's Square (Piazza di San Pietro)
Laid out in front of St. Peter's Basilica and over a portion of the Necropolis ("City of the Dead"), this piazza is perhaps one of the most recognizable squares in all of Rome. Along each side are Bernini's breathtaking semi-circular colonnades that give one the feeling that the Basilica is extending its arms outward to envelop the visitor to the church.
On top of the colonnades are 140 marble statues of saints looking down upon the piazza. There are twin fountains midway between Piazza Pius XII and the Basilica's stairs on either side, one by Maderno erected in 1614, and the other was built later to match it.
In the middle of the piazza is a gigantic Egyptian obelisk, originally erected in Heliopolis by King Nuncores and moved to Rome by Emperor Caligula (34-41 A.D.) and set up in the dividing island of his circus in the Vatican Meadows. This circus was later renamed Nero's Circus. As you are facing the Basilica, this former Meadows is to the left of the Basilica, past the left colonnade where Paul VI Hall now stands and where St. Peter was crucified upside down.
As with all obelisks erected in Rome's squares, it is crowed with a bronze cross. This particular obelisk is different than the others in Rome in that within the bronze cross is contained a sliver of the True Cross (Cross of Christ brought back to Rome from Jerusalem by St. Helena). In 1586, Pope Sixtus V moved the obelisk to its present site in the center of the piazza some 100 meters from its original place.
Vatican City is a sovereign country in and of itself, is the smallest nation in the world, and encompasses some 108 acres (about 440,000 square meters) and is completely surrounded by Rome. It includes St. Peter's Basilica (the largest church on earth at over six acres) and the Vatican Museums with over 4-1/2 miles of corridors.
Nothing stuns the senses like Vatican Art----and the soaring Bernini Altar and Cathedra Petri designed by Gianlorenzo Bernini, 1656-66, made of gilt bronze, marble, stucco, glass.
The crowning achievement of Bernini's design for the decoration of St. Peter's can be found in his later work Cathedra Petri (Chair of St Peter) located in the apse of the basilica.
CATHEDRA PETRI (seen through the Baldacchino of the Bernini Altar.)
This large reliquary was designed to house the original wooden chair of St. Peter's. In ecclesiastic tradition, Bishops always have their seats in the chief church of their district (cathedra=cathedral), and the Pope has his seat in St. John's in Lateran. Symbolically, the chair of St. Peter recognizes that St. Peter was the first pope and that San Pietro is and forever shall be his seat.
The overall effect of the Cathedra Petri is awe-inspiring; rays of light, made in stucco, jut out from the real source of light. So much emotion is worked into the piece by the expression on the Doctors' faces and the movement of the putti and angels.
Also located on the Cathedra Petri are bas relief of Washing of the Feet and The Handing Over of the Keys to St. Peter, created by Bernini. On the back side is a bas relief regarding Christ's decree to St. Peter, "watch over my flock."
Bernini reduced the size of the Cathedra Petri so that it could be viewed in its entirety through the Baldacchino of the Bernini Altar. In that view, Bernini emphasized the importance of the relics contained in each, and the foundation of the Church.
Tour of St. Paul-Outside-the Walls [ Burial Place of St. Paul], Vatican City
A 360 degree tour of the Basilica, including a view of the apostle's tomb.
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