In my post about the Vatican Museums, I referenced Old St. Peter's Basilica. Here's the scoop on it:
"A shrine was erected on the site of St. Peter's tomb in the 2nd century and the first great basilica, ordered by the Emperor Constantine, was completed around AD 349. By the 15th century it was falling down, so in 1506 Pope Julius II laid the first stone of a new church. It took more than a century to build and all the great architects of the Roman Renaissance and Baroque had a hand in its design." (DK Eyewitness Travel: Rome page 230.) Here are photos of its exterior.
These bronze doors came from Old St. Peter's Basilica.
This is the Bernini Fountain in St. Peter's Square (the large open area directly in front of the basilica).
And now for the stunning interior.
This massive bronze canopy, the Baldachhio, stands over the Papal Altar from which only the pope is permitted to celebrate mass. This Papal Altar marks the site of St. Peter's crypt, which is buried beneath it.
Michelangelo designed the basilica's dome. The oval window in the background portrays a dove, the symbol of the Holy Spirit. The Throne of St. Peter in Glory sits beneath it.
This is the coat of arms of Pope Urban VIII. It is located on the base of the Baldachhio and represents the keys to heaven.
I'm not sure what the story is behind this massive statue, but it's really something to behold.
Michelangelo's Pieta is as famous as is the Sistine Chapel. This marble depiction of the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ was finished in 1499. Apparently people did not believe that Michelangelo was the sculptor. As he once stood in the crowd among such naysayers, he jumped up onto the sculpture and quickly chiseled away: he signed his name in the Virgin Mary's sash, thus making this the only sculpture he ever autographed. Back in the 1970s, somebody vandalized part of this statue. It is now surrounded by bullet proof glass.
St. Peter's Basilica is absolutely beautiful, except for one thing: there are two dead popes on display in clear glass caskets. The caskets are recessed into the walls, so you can only see one full side view of each. There are little altars and prayer areas set up at the viewing spots. Lots of people were taking photographs, but I just couldn't bring myself to do it. I can't imagine ever wanting to put photos of dead bodies in my scrapbook. It just kind of creeped me out. To each her own, I suppose.
Did you know that Vatican City is still guarded by the Swiss Guard? We just happened to be there for the afternoon changing of the guard.
After leaving St. Peter's Basilica, we walked to Piazza Navona.
This is the obelisk of the Fontana del Quattro Fiumi. "Built for Pope Innocent X Pamphili, this magnificent fountain in the center of Piazza Navona was unveiled in 1651. The pope's coat of arms, the dove and the olive branch, decorate the pyramid rock formation supporting the Roman obelisk, which once stood in the Circus of Maxentius on the Appian Way. Bernini designed the fountain. which was paid for by means of taxes on bread and other staples. The great rivers--the Ganges, the Danube, the Nile, and the Plate--are represented by four giants." (DK Eyewitness Travel: Rome page 120.)
Where there's a fountain, there's little MIss Emma sitting at its edge having fun with her mommy.
We stopped alongside the fountain to enjoy an afternoon snack. It came with entertainment: people watching and the ever sweet, ever silly Emma.
Refreshed and rejuvenated, we walked over to Castel Sant'Angelo. "The massive fortress of Castel Sant'Angelo takes its name from the vision that Pope Gregory the Great had of the Archangel Michael on this site. It began life in AD 139 as Emperor Hadrian's mausoleum. Since then it has had many roles: as part of Emperor Aurelian's city wall, as a medieval citadel and prison, and as the residence of the popes in times of political unrest. From the dank cells in the lower levels to the fine apartments of the Renaissance popes above, a 58-room museum covers all aspects of the castle's history." (DK Eyewitness Travel: Rome page 248.) Unfortuantely, the museum had closed just prior to our arrival, but I did get some good shots of its exterior.
We walked along the river, passing the Palazzo di Giustizia (Palace of Justice). According to DK Eyewitness Travel: Rome (page 248), it was "built between 1899 and 1910 to house the national law courts. Its riverside facade is crowned with a bronze chariot and fronted by giant statues of the great men of Italian law. The building was supposed to embody the new order replacing the injustices of papal rule, but it has never endeared itself to the Romans. It was soon dubbed the Palazzaccio (roughly, 'the ugly old palazzo') both for its appearnace and for the nature of its business. By the 1970s the building was collapsing under its own weight, but it has now been restored."
As we contined along the river, we came aross this carousel. And really, what's a vacation without a carousel ride?
We found a teeny tine little restaurant where we dined for dinner.
Our time in Rome came to an end. We packed a lot into our four days there. We were sad to leave Rome, but at the same time we couldn't wait to see Venice.