This could have been re-titled as Vatican Museum Trip Report, but in keeping with the standard nomenclature that I have set for the rest of the Eurotrip, I will just stick with Rome Day 2.
Woke up early again today, found a simple cafe near to the apartment that we were staying called Il Espresso. It was also the first time we came face to face with the sitting charge of €2. But since they provided some freshly baked bread, I have no complaints, in Rome do as the Romans do.
Getting to the Vatican Museum or Musei Vaticani, was a different kettle of fish altogether. It was a working day and we were caught with the office crowd at the Metro station.
Tip: Get tickets to the Vatican Museum way ahead of time to skip the queue
“I think this could be summed up as too many people, too few trains,” according to my wife. We had to squeeze into the packed subway trains in order to get to our destination in time. The nearest stop was still some walking distance away from the entrance but no worries, you could just follow the crowd as they make their way from the Metro station to the entrance.
It was just hitting 8:30-9:00 am in the morning of a working there but the lines were already 300 to 400 metres long, spanning half a block. Not to mention the number of tour groups waiting to go in.
“Luckily we got ourselves the tickets in advance,” I whispered under my breath.
There are a few things you need to keep in mind before visiting the Vatican Museum, none more important than the dress code (especially for St. Peter’s Basilica). No short shorts or bare shoulders. The ticket price is €14 per person (in May 2012) and you could buy it online. Please check the date that you plan on visiting as it closes on many holidays, especially religious ones.
“Do you want to take the guided tour?” I was asked before entering. Guided tours are good if you haven’t done enough research on the place and that you are really, really interested in the museum. They will give you all the facts in easily digestible formats, albeit at a higher price. I have done mine in advance and so with a polite no, I declined.
Entrance is €14 + €6 for the audioguide if you want
By the way, audioguides are available for an extra €6.
The spiral staircase will be the starting point, so make your way there. If you do not know what I’m talking about, just take a look at the picture above.
The first part of the tour is Ancient Egypt (or 3000-1000 BC), or should I say, the wife’s favourite part of the whole museum. Take note of the mummies and their organs kept in jars beside them, the Egyptian styled statues which differ from the Romans. Look how stiff and awkward the position of their hands and feet. Conspiracy theorists would probably said they were alien-like. Nothing our simple minds could comprehend.
After finishing Ancient Egypt, take a left turn into the Octagonal Courtyard, contrasted with the stiff statues of Egypt, the Greek era statues are ‘more human’, so to speak.
“Well, at least the Egyptian statues were clothed,” smirked the wife.
Buck naked would probably explain the condition of the Greek statues.
Coming to the end of the Octagonal Courtyard is the entrance to the Round Room. Instead of looking around at the statues, look downwards at the mosaic floor. Purple was a rare and royal colour back in the days before Kodak.
“Prepare for the Long March,” I said as we were walking towards another room.
“What?” asked my Dad.
“Figure of speech,” as I pointed to the long hallway covered with tapestries and maps of the Renaissance Era.
“Here we can see what would be, in my opinion the best piece of art here — The School of Athens,” I said, pointing to the work of Raphael.
Located in the center is Plato and Aristotle, the two greatest Greeks. Plato was drawn pointing up, probably indicating his ideas and mathematics as the source of all, while Aristotle, preferring a hands-on study of the material world, points down. Raphael balanced everything symmetrically in his painting, which was why I liked it in the first place, thinkers to the left, scientists to the right.
We have finally come to the end of the tour of the Vatican Museum — the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, no photography is allowed. Find the sign that says ‘Cappella Sistina’. Here lies the famous work by Michelangelo.
Raphael is drawn next to last on the far right, with the black beret
“Let me tell you the story or the legend,” I droned on.
Pope Julius II pleaded Michelangelo to take on the job but he replied that he was a sculptor and not a painter. It was a vast undertaking and he wasn’t going to do a half-arsed job at it. But the Pope was not going to take no for an answer, after some amount of pleading, Michelangelo finally agreed except that he has the final say.
Michelangelo decided to draw the entire history of the world until Jesus, even though the initial contract was for the 12 apostles only. He spent 4 years craning his neck on a scaffolding to cover the ceiling with frescoes. The Sistine ceiling is considered the single greatest work of art by any one human being.
Try to grab a seat along the side and enjoy the whole ceiling laid out in front and above you. Look at the Creation of Adam (made famous by the ET scene, or was it the other way round). The Nine Scenes from Genesis. The Last Judgement.
Tip: His drawing drew the ire of the Church authorities, guess what Michelangelo did. He drew his chief critic into the Last Judgment scene. The critic is the jackassed demon on the bottom right corner, wrapped in a snake. Look how his privates are covered. Share it in the comment below.
In case you were wondering about the answer to the question posted above in the picture caption of the School of Athens. The work of Michelangelo on the Sistine Chapel was not missed by Raphael. After he had completed the School of Athens painting, he was wowed by what Michelangelo just did, so he added him into his work. So there he is, the brooding bearded guy.
(to be continued)