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Tuesday, May 31, 2016

sistine chapel and vatican museums

Our 4th day in Rome we had almost the entire day to do whatever we wanted. Cameron and I woke up, grabbed breakfast and coffee and set off to get some shopping done. I have to say the shopping we did in Rome has been the best I've ever done anywhere! It was so much fun! We bought lots of clothes and souvenirs for our family. Cameron and I fell in the love with the clothes in Italy. Not only were they so super cute but very reasonably priced! Our shopping afternoon was loads of fun.

That evening the company that we came on the trip with, had scheduled a private tour of the Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums. I had been looking forward to this from the moment we found out we were going. Growing up Catholic, to visit the Vatican is a life long dream.

As we pulled up I was surprised to see that there is a giant stone and brick wall surrounding the Vatican. I was also surprised that it's considered it's own country. If you live there you have a separate passport. 

The original entrance to the Vatican

After going through the most intense security I've ever been through we walked into a glass hallway and got a glimpse of St. Peter's.

Then we headed out to some of the Vatican Gardens

After that we were lead back inside to tour some of the Vatican Museums
Every single inch of these hallways were painted the most beautiful paintings you've ever seen. Cameron and I were speechless...it was truly breathtaking.

We came to a hallway that the walls were lined with these giant tapestries depicting Bible stories. These tapestries stretched from floor to ceiling and had gold woven in them. The date back to 1500's

 This one was my favorite. Jesus' eyes follow you as you walk. It was a very interesting feeling. Plus this version of Jesus seems the most real to me was to what he looked like then any other.

We were then led into another room with giant wall paintings.

This is a very famous painting called "The School of Athens" painted by Raphael.  I have to say I was pretty embarrassed that I had never heard of it. 
"The School of Athens is one of a group of four main frescoes on the walls of the Stanza (those on either side centrally interrupted by windows) that depict distinct branches of knowledge. Each theme is identified above by a separate tondo containing a majestic female figure seated in the clouds, with putti bearing the phrases: "Seek Knowledge of Causes," "Divine Inspiration," "Knowledge of Things Divine" (Disputa), "To Each What Is Due." Accordingly, the figures on the walls below exemplify Philosophy, Poetry (including Music), Theology, and Law."
"In the center of the fresco, at its architecture's central vanishing point, are the two undisputed main subjects: Plato on the left and Aristotle, his student, on the right. Both figures hold modern (of the time), bound copies of their books in their left hands, while gesturing with their right. Plato holds Timaeus, Aristotle his Nicomachean Ethics. Plato is depicted as old, grey, wise-looking, and bare-foot. By contrast Aristotle, slightly ahead of him, is in mature manhood, handsome, well-shod and dressed with gold, and the youth about them seem to look his way"
info from Wikipedia

 The last hallway we walked down leading into the Sistine Chapel. The tour guide said that this is hallway that the Pope walks down to go there. Again every square inch was covered in paintings or gold.

 The outside of the Sistine Chapel.
  I was so surprised by how simple the outside of it looked. It looked nothing like a chapel we would think of. It is literally just a plain brick building sandwiched between other buildings.

However once you are in it's quite majestic.
I know this might sound CRAZY but I had no idea Michelangelo's famous painting at the center ceiling was of God touching Adam to give him life. The 7 days of creation are depicted on the ceiling.
You know those moments in life you never forget...this was one for me. We were the first group of 20 to walk into the chapel. Our tour guide got a little choked up and stood there staring at the ceiling and said "you can't believe what an honor this is. At any given time there are no less then 1,000 people in this room. I have never been in here with only 20." Because it's a chapel you have to stay quite to show reverence. The whole experience was very surreal.
 And the art...you can't even begin to imagine how amazing it is in person. 
 And how big. I was just awe struck at the size of it all.
The Last Judgment, or The Final Judgement (ItalianIl Giudizio Universale),[1] is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City. It is a depiction of the Second Coming of Christ and the final and eternal judgment by God of all humanity. The souls of humans rise and descend to their fates, as judged by Christ surrounded by prominentsaints including Saints Catherine of Alexandria, Peter, Lawrence, Bartholomew, Paul, Sebastian, John the Baptist, and others.
The work took four years to complete and was done between 1536 and 1541 (preparation of the altar wall began in 1535.) Michelangelo began working on it twenty five years after having finished the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
 This was Michelangelo's last painting in the chapel. And he didn't even want to do it! They said that he always battled with the Pope's because he did not agree with how they lived their life. They had lots of money and lived and ruled like Kings and he believed that the leader of the church should live modestly. I bet he would have like Pope Francis :) But they forced him to paint this. As a way of getting back at the Pope, if you look Jesus in the center, then to the bottom right...that's Saint Bartholemew. He was skinned alived therefore he is holding his skin. That face of the skin is the face of Michaelangelo. He painted his face in the skin. At the bottom right hand side are the devil's angels pulling people to hell. The man wrapped up in the snake is the pope at that time.

After leaving the chapel we headed through the hallways of gifts that have been given to the Popes.

While all these things were beautiful to look at, I kind of had a personal moment of religious clarity. While I am not going to go into it, my feelings for my church changed a bit. I am and will always be a practicing Catholic but these men over the years that shaped our church and some of the beliefs I hold were not as "holy" as they should be. We learned that they had mistresses and children and had people killed all while living in palaces and being adorned with gifts. I am very thankful that we have the Pope we do now. He lives in a small apartment at the Vatican, not the Pope Palace. They told us that every single gift he is given he collects, then sells tickets to the people of Rome and holds a drawing where he gives away the presents. All the money raised goes to the poor. He's given away jewelry and even cars! Our tour guide said one of her friends won a piece of the jewelry! He keeps nothing and lives simply. That's how the Pope should be. She also said the people of Rome love Pope Francis where as in the past that has not been the case with the Popes.

Anyway...as we were leaving that evening we caught another glimpse of St. Peter's. 
Cameron and I were headed there the next day and this was by the far the part of the trip I was most looking forward to. 

Monday, May 30, 2016

Pompeii

Our 3rd day in Rome we woke up bright and early and hopped on a bus destined for Napoli, Italy. Napoli is a pretty big city that sits sandwiched between the ocean and Mount Vesuvius, yep, the volcano that took out Pompeii. I remember as a child being so fascinated by Pompeii so when I found out that we had the chance to visit I was beyond excited. And, just like everything else we did in Rome, it didn't disappoint ;)

Just a quick recap on Pompeii, it was a huge thriving city in early AD but was covered in dust and ash when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD.

As you walk in you immediately get kind of an eerie feeling. These people were going on about their regular daily life when an earthquake hit, then a tsunami was heading their way and the volcano erupted. Just imagining the terror they felt in those moments, not really knowing what was happening or what to do. We were also told that all the people died from the gases from the volcano before they were covered by the ash.  Most were in their homes when they died.

Homes along the hillside walking into the city.

Right when you walk into the city there was a stadium. This is where gladiators would come and fight.
While there we also found out that these people had no idea about Jesus yet therefore they had no guilt. This actually surprised me but makes a lot of sense. No one felt guilt until the creation of Christianity so that's why fighting and killing was just a way of life. 
some of the original marble was preserved and still looks beautiful today...2000 years later.
I climbed to the top of the stadium to catch a glimpse of Mount Vesuvius, which I might add is still an active volcano.

As we walked on through the town on cobblestone streets we saw where homes, bath houses and stores once stood and thrived. 

Public water fountain

 Inside a bath house

What we consider a kitchen with their ovens in one of the homes. How these structures have stayed so preserved is amazing.


More preserved marble


 The tour guide said that Pompeii was like our modern day Vegas. Because it was on the sea many sailors would stop in too see what it was all about. All the buildings and walls were painted red. Here are some of the walls that still have the red paint.

These are pots that they kept wine in at a local bar.

 Temple of some sort

Wall in a bath house

Archways in a bath house

Standing on what was the main street with stores lined on each side.

 A bed in one of the homes. It was believed that the people of Pompeii were very small. The tallest man was only 5'2.

 A living room in one of the homes

 Now this was the only 2 story building left standing...the brothel. The tour guide said that all the buildings were 2 story but when the ash hit the town it knocked off the top floors. This brothel was tucked in between a bunch of buildings so the second story of was saved.
So the brothel was quite interesting ;) I won't post the pictures but when you walk in above each doorway was a painting of what was "offered" in that room. Shockingly all the pictures were in perfect condition and were quite graphic ;) The pictures were there because people from all different countries and languages would come to Pompeii so this made it easier. It was definitely an experience walking through, ha!

Another bath house...I was just shocked at the condition of the floors. Beautiful!

After walking through the streets we made it to what was their town square with Mount Vesuvius right there overlooking.

It is true that there are preserved human bodies to see at Pompeii. I had always been told this but to actually see them is a whole different experience.

This is a small child

An adult man
They said as they were excavating the site the came upon a body. Once the body started being in contact with air it immediately started to deteriorate. To preserve the bodies they came upon, once they discovered that it was a body, they injected plaster into the skin and let it harden. Then they would dig the bodies out, leaving them in the exact position when they passed. All the human bones are still in these bodies.

We just stood there in complete awe. I can't even explain how it felt to see this. Something that is definitely worth experiencing. 

Pompeii was quite the experience. I want to go back and spend more time there and take the kids one day. It truly is like stepping back in time when you walk through the town all while being watched by the giant volcano that in one swoop wiped out an entire city. 
The tour guide told us that Vesuvius is still active and could erupt really anytime. There are 2 million people that live in the city of Napoli with only 1 road that leads out. The fact that anyone would live in this city is beyond me.

Next Rome adventure...the Vatican!