"Vatican City - World's smallest state" Vatican City by Willettsworld
Vatican City Travel Guide: 1,268 reviews and 3,883 photos
Vatican City is the world capital of Catholicism and is also the world's smallest state. It occupies 43ha (106 acres) within high walls watched over by the Vatican guard. It was the site where St Peter was martyred in AD 64 and buried in a necropolis near the site of his crucifixion where the present day St Peter's Basilica now stands. It is also the residence of the popes who have succeeded him. The papal palaces are home to the Sistine Chapel and the wonderful collections of the Vatican Museums. Neighbouring Trastevere is quite different, a picturesque old quarter, whose inhabitants consider themselves to be the only true Romans.
The Vatican, a sovereign state since February 1929, is ruled by the pope, Europe's only absolute monarch. About 500 people live here and, as well as accomodation for staff and ecclesiasts, the city has it's own post office, banks, currency (even though it's still the Euro), judicial system, radio station, shops and daily newspaper.
Catholicims most sacred shrine, the sumptuous, marble-caked Basilica of St Peter's draws pilgrims and tourists from all over the world. It holds hundreds of precious works of art, some salvaged from the original 4th century basilica built by Constantine.
The Basilica of St Peter is the biggest church in the world with its enormous size and the magnificent dome which also represents one of the most solemn monuments in Rome. The first basilica was founded in the same place were St Peter was buried in AD 324 by Constantine. The holy building was very sumptuous, decorated with marbles and mosaics but it changed in 1541 when Nicholas V thought to completely renovate it. After him, Julius II thought that it was necessary to pull it down and put Bramante and Giuliano da Sangallo in charge of the reconstruction. When Bramante died, Raphael Sanzio replaced him and in 1546 Michelangelo became in charge of the works; he designed the huge dome, then he was followed by Fontana, Maderno and Bernini who tried to stick to the project of their master. The façade was built by Carlo Maderno in 1614 who put columns and Corinthian pilasters in the lower part, a central porch and two arches at both ends and, on the upper part, nine balconies, the central of which was called the ”Loggia of the Blessings“. The façade finishes with an attic in which windows and pilasters alternate, and a balustrade with 13 statues.
Home to the Sistine Chapel and Raphael Rooms as well as to one of the world's most important art collections, the Vatican Museums are housed in palaces originally built for Renaissance popes such as Julius II, Innocent VIII and Sixtus IV. As you pass through from one collection of art to another, you find yourselve not only looking at the art on display but also at the rooms themselves as they are also a work of art.
If you're coming from St Peter's Square, it's quite a trek round to the entrance. You will need a lot of time to see absolutely everything but if you're time is limited (like mine) pick out the areas you fancy visiting. I spent approx 3 hours one afternoon seeing everything on the upper floor (including the Raphael Rooms), Sistine Chapel, Lapidary Gallery & the Egyptian Museum.
The Courtyard of the Pine-Cone takes it's curious name from a huge (4m high) bronze pine-cone dating from the 1st... more travel advice
Considered to be the masterpiece of Michelangelo's mature years, the Last Judgment was commissioned by Pope Paul III... more travel advice
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