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Sylvester Stallone by Raphael

It was truly amazing. Right in the middle of the world class Raphael rooms in the Vatican, one’s eye gazed upon a 15th century Sylvester Stallone painted by the great Renaissance painter, Raphael. It looks as if the American actor had posed for the painting. The rooms, painted by Raphael, are masterpieces. His, “The School of Athens,” depicting all the great thinkers of history until that time, but represented by Raphael’s contemporaries, is considered Raphael’s greatest work. To stand and gaze upon it was an ethereal experience. Right after the Raphael rooms, one entered the Sistine Chapel, painted by the rival of Raphael, Michelangelo. Our guide had done a good job of educating us about the chapel before we entered, as no speaking is allowed in the room. Numerous policemen enforced the rule, as well as no exposed knees or bare shoulders allowed. The study of Scripture — the chapel frescoes are all Bible stories or great Christian personages; for example, knowing from Scripture that Moses could not look upon the face of God, Michelangelo painted that panel showing only the backside of God; the understanding of anatomy — in the panel of the creation of Adam, God is enclosed in the outline of a human brain; and the depth of skill for someone who had not painted in fresco before makes this chapel among the most cherished and recognized works of art in history. Room after room of the Vatican museum contained priceless works of art set in fabulous display. It was overwhelming.

Vatican City is its own independent country. The central feature of the Vatican is St. Peter’s Square and the Basilica of St. Peter. The Basilica is the largest Christian Church in the world. Michelangelo’s Pieta, depicting Mary holding the crucified Jesus, is near the entrance. The Basilica is stunning and beautiful and, to my eye, made personal by Bernini’s massive baldacchino, a mostly bronze art-piece towering over the altar and pointing to the massive dome of the basilica. St. Peter, the disciple, is buried beneath the altar.

We visited the other three major basilicas of Rome. My favorite, St. Paul’s, contained the burial site of the Apostle. Recent independent scientific and forensic studies have verified that the bones are of a first century male whose missing head — the Apostle was said to have been beheaded — had been severed with a sword, which was the form of beheading used by the Romans. Outside was an Egyptian obelisk that was over 6,000 years old. It was used in the early centuries to guide pilgrims to the church. St. John Lateran, the mother church of Christendom, was commissioned by the first Christian Emperor, Constantine, in the early 300s and served as the main church of Rome and of Christianity for over 1,200 years, before the building of the more modern St. Peter’s Basilica in the 1400-1500s. The ancient door to the church, commissioned by Julius Caesar, is over 2,000 years old.

What a day!

WEG – August 31, 2015

Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museum

Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museum

A portion of an entire room fresco by Raphael known as The School of Athens

A portion of an entire room fresco by Raphael known as The School of Athens

The Sistine Chapel ceiling of Michelangelo - Note the panels of the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve, and the casting from the Garden

The Sistine Chapel ceiling of Michelangelo – Note the panels of the creation of Adam, the creation of Eve, and the casting from the Garden

St. Peter's Basilica

St. Peter’s Basilica

The Vatican

The Vatican

St. Paul's Basilica - the burial place of St. Paul

St. Paul’s Basilica – the burial place of St. Paul

The sarcophagus, or burial place, of St. Paul within the Basilica of St. Paul

The sarcophagus, or burial place, of St. Paul within the Basilica of St. Paul

The door at St. Paul's Basilica commissioned by Julius Caesar over 2,000 years ago

The door at St. Paul’s Basilica commissioned by Julius Caesar over 2,000 years ago

The obelisk from Egypt that marked the way for pilgrims at the St. Paul Basilica

The obelisk from Egypt that marked the way for pilgrims at the St. Paul Basilica

The Holy Stairway climbed by Christ on his way to sentencing brought in its entirety from Jerusalem by Helen, mother of Constantine

The Holy Stairway climbed by Christ on his way to sentencing brought in its entirety from Jerusalem by Helen, mother of Constantine

Altar fresco at St. John Latern

Altar fresco at St. John Latern


5 Comments

  1. Roger Tornga says:

    You gave words so eloquently to the memories in my soul as I recall my experiences roaming Rome at 24 years of age. St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, highlighted by the Sistine Chapel, still evoke awe and wonder at every remembrance.

  2. Nancy McCollum says:

    Your writing makes me want to visit every place you’ve been and see everything you’ve seen. Nice job, Pastor Wayne!! Love to Kathy.

  3. Sandi Ruml says:

    Thank you so much Wayne,your descriptive words and the awe you experienced being there are transported to me, the beauty and the significance of the art is breathtaking. Seeing the burial place of St. Paul is awesome. Seeing the stairway that Christ walked is unbelievable. Thank you for including us in your visits. Be safe, love to you and Kathy my dear cousin.

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