Visiting Rome: The Vatican and the Vatican Museums

We took a Viator tour of the Vatican Museums and also was able to go into the Vatican without waiting in Saint Peter's Square in line. The place is absolutely an art lovers dream, and if you are Roman Catholic, it is the place to visit. Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to see Pope Francis ;-(

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     It had been over 30 years since I was last at the Vatican. For those who may be unaware, the Vatican is the seat of the Roman Catholic Church. And it is one of the most spectacular church buildings in all of Christianity. And the museums are second to none, especially if you are a fan of early and late Roman art (I am mostly talking about sculpture and mosaics), as well as a number of excellent examples of Renaissance artwork (I am mostly talking about paintings).

     I decided to purchase a tour of the Vatican and the Vatican Museums. I have to be honest, after visiting the Sistine Chapel, we were pretty left on our own. Yea, we got in early, and had the run of the place (moderately speaking). If you want to know more about we saw in Rome, see my previous blog post here.

     I was pretty happy with the Vatican tour. I could take photographs, and if you are a fan of Roman and Greek sculpture, then you will be a happy camper! There were a large number of busts and and statues of non-famous Romans and Greeks. I love it! Sorry, I have this fascination with statuary, the ability of artists to create figures out of stone amazes me.

A collection of busts at the Vatican Museum at the Vatican, Rome, Italy.

     The Vatican Museums are photography friendly. If you don’t mind the numbers of people which grows by the hour. I am not sure how many folks visit the Vatican Museums, but it has to be thousands daily. Of course, we were there during the height of tourist season, so your mileage will vary depending on when you plan to visit.

Statue of Octavian, otherwise known as Caesar Augustus, the first emperor of Rome.

     And the Vatican itself, yes, you can take photographs to your hearts content. The only problem is no tripods, and it is packed with people, so getting shots without people is virtually impossible. My solution? Look up. The architecture of the Basilica is really beautiful. And gaudy at the same time. I found myself enjoying a particular piece of artwork and then would turn and have my eyes assaulted by some baroque gaudy thing that just took away from the grandeur of the place.

     But if you don’t mind baroque architecture, then you will enjoy the Basilica. And I’d suggest getting photographs of pieces of the scene before you. I found the main doors of the Basilica to be rich with opportunities for photography. As well as the number of statuary around the sanctuary that provides some rich possibilities for photographs.

Artistic treatment of a carving of the Second Vatican Council at the Vatican, Rome, Italy.

     I also found the Bernini Canopy to be subject worthy of photographing. It is pretty much the most spectacular canopy you will find in any Roman Catholic Basilica. It is a great subject to photography from almost any angle!

The high altar at Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City, Rome, Italy.

     If you know the history of the Papacy, you know that the primary family which controlled the Papacy in the 16th century were the Barberini family, and you can see their family seal all over the Bernini canopy. The Coat of Arms of the Barberini family are bees. If you visit the Vatican, look for the number of instances you can see the bees in the artwork of the the Bernini Canopy.

     If you are lucky enough and have something to steady yourself (remember, no tripods or monopods are allowed), you too can get a good shot of the chains of Saint Peter beneath the high altar of the Vatican. I tried, but had a real difficult time getting a good shot. But your luck may be better than mine.

     The outside of the Vatican is also a mixed bag, largely due to the shear number of people who gather in Saint Peter’s square. I took many images, but none were good enough shots I’d want to share with anyone. I was able to get some shots of the Swiss guard, which you will find stationed at the left of the Saint Peters as you face it.

     If you go to the Vatican, bring your camera. You won’t regret it. However, also note that getting some great images will take a lot of time and a lot of work as you try to work around the shear number of people you have to work around to get that shot. But regardless, it was a wonderful as I remembered when I visited the Vatican over 30 years ago!

     And no, I didn’t see Pope Francis, unlike when I was there last where I got to see Pope John Paul II.

     The lines to visit the Vatican can be long, and there is a metal detector that all visitors have to go through to get access to both the Vatican and the Vatican Museums. So know and understand before you arrive with all your earthly possessions. Although, I have to admit, it wasn’t a big deal. Just put the car keys and the cell phone into a bucket, and the camera into another bucket and shazam, I was in!

     I hope you get to visit the Vatican and Vatican Museums. And if you have some time, enjoy the Sistine Chapel, and realize that this is the location where the Pope is elected. And the artwork is just absolutely gorgeous!

Other Posts in this Series "Impressions of Italy"


Previous Post: Impressions of Italy: Praiano on the Amalfi Coast
Next Post: Visiting the Eternal City: Rome!


Peace,

David Cote is a landscape and travel photographer who makes stunning photographs of beautiful locations around our wonderful world. When not selling photography at art shows or online, he can be found sharing his love and knowledge of photography with others who love photography.

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