Early on in our week in Rome we had the opportunity to go to Vatican City and St. Peter’s Basilica. This place feels almost unreal. I say this because, as someone who never really understood Catholicism, even though I went to a Jesuit university, this place was something unexpected to me. You see the pictures of people filling up every empty space here and people wanting to be there because of religious reasons but nothing really prepares you for the moment you walk up to the entrance and you see just how wonderful this place is. We stopped in the piazza outside of the city and did a class there standing under the watchful eyes of all the statues.
After our class was over, we had the opportunity to go into St. Peter’s to see the underground necropolis and relics. This was interesting to me as someone who is not really well versed in history. It’s so fascinating to be surrounded by things that are hundreds of years old and belonged to people who shaped the world that we live in today. Especially when it came to the religious relics, most of these are parts of people that had been preserved and kept here. I would say that this was a great experience and I’m glad to have experienced it, but I did feel a little creeped out. But realistically, I am a little too logical for my own good and focus on the fact that I was surrounded by people who had been dead for hundreds of years…
When we had finally gotten our fill of the necropolis and relics, we headed into the Vatican to see the artwork in the museum and then finally made our way into the Sistine Chapel. You’re not allowed to take photos in there and there are people everywhere watching you like a hawk to ensure you don’t take photos. But man this place was unbelievable. To be 100% honest, I’m not entirely sure I have the words to fully describe how it felt to be under the Sistine Chapel. The entire trip thus far had been one big blur and whirlwind, especially considering the fact that one grows up hearing about these places. You learn about the history of these chapels, the artwork, the amount of work that went into creating these pieces before you eyes. But standing there and seeing it in real life, it almost seems unreal. For me, it felt like everything I knew about this place went out the window and I was just overwhelmed with what I saw. I couldn’t focus on understanding the paintings from the perspective of knowing the history, I couldn’t bring myself to remember what I had learned. Instead, all I could do was stand there and stare in complete awe at how amazing the artwork was and realizing that this wasn’t a dream.
After that experience, we made our way back to our hotel to drop off our stuff and head back out to the see the rest of the city.