Walking through the Vatican Museums is not for the fainthearted. As I continued to fight my way through the museums (begun in my first post my last day in rome – to, from & around part of the vatican museums), I felt like I was in a herd of cattle, carried along with wall-to-wall crowds that were shuttled through the whole 7km of exhibits in the museum. At the end of every exhibit space was a sign:
SISTINE CHAPEL –>–>
Michelangelo’s Chapel was repeatedly promised but delivery was postponed at every turn. The signs deceived us into thinking we were almost there. We weren’t.
After the Egyptian mummies and tombs, statues and Egyptian gods as animals, and Sumerian writing, I passed through the octagonal courtyard. Then I was shuttled through the Greek and Roman sculptures, from 500 B.C. to A.D. 500.
I found Laocoön, the high priest of Troy who warned his fellow Trojans not to accept gifts from Greeks, meaning the Trojan Horse. The Gods wanted the Greeks to win, so they sent huge snakes to crush Laocoön and his sons to death. Each muscle and vein ripples and bulges. This was sculpted some four centuries after the Golden Age (5th-4th century B.C.)
I saw the Belvedere Torso, a rough hunk of shaped rock which is all that remains of an ancient statue of Hercules seated on a lion skin, all tough power and rough edges.
The Round Room, modeled on the Pantheon interior, was the height of Roman grandeur. A bronze statue of Hercules stood heroically with a club. The Mosaic floor once decorated the bottom of a pool in an ancient Roman bath. In the middle sat an enormous Roman basin made of purple porphyry marble imported from Egypt. The purple was the color of emperors and the basin once decorated Nero’s Palace.
The Sarcophagi of Helena and Constantina are two fourth century porphyry sarcophagi at the Vatican Museums.
I was then herded into the Etruscan Wing, where I became enamored of huge numbers of Etruscan amphoras.
In the middle of the Etruscan Wing, there was a fine view of the city.
We continued our slow march through the tapestries, passing the Statue of Artemis, the many breasted beauty who stood for fertility. Some say bulls were sacrificed and castrated, with testicles draped over statues as fertility statues.
The photo below shows my view of the crowds during the entire experience.
Tapestries designed by Raphael’s workshop and made in Brussels showed scenes from the life of Christ.
The Gallery of Maps, one of my favorite hallways in the entire museum, contained a series of painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by friar and geographer Ignazio Danti. The panels map the entire Italian peninsula in large-scale frescoes, each depicting a region as well as a perspective view of its most prominent city. These maps are said to be approximately 80% accurate. The scenes on the ceiling portray exciting moments in Church history by region.
The four Raphael Rooms are known for their frescoes, painted by Raphael (1483-1520) and his workshop, and were originally created as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II della Rovere, head of the Roman Catholic Church and ruler of the Papal States from 1503 to his death in 1513. When Raphael died in 1520, his assistants finished the works in the Hall of Constantine.
The Fire in the Borgo shows the fire that broke out in the Borgo in 847 in Rome. The Battle of Ostia painting was inspired by the naval victory of Leo IV over the Saracens at Ostia in 849.
As I continued on, hoping around each corner to be awed by the Sistine Chapel, I passed other things in a blur, not having any idea what they were.
Finally, we came to the Sistine Chapel. After all that waiting and hassle, it was packed with people chatting loudly and guards constantly shushing everyone and announcing that no photography or videotaping was allowed. They admonished people not to sit on the floor in the middle of the chapel. People ignored them, so their commands were wasted and only added to the noise level. It was too bad that people couldn’t sit and quietly absorb it as if they were in a church.
I was exhausted by that time and sat on a bench along the wall to admire Michelangelo’s story of creation, with God appearing magically in each scene on the ceiling. The artist, at age 33, spent four years (1508-1512) on this ceiling and the masterpiece of The Last Judgment, telling the entire history of the world before Jesus. It includes the Creation of Adam, The Garden of Eden, nine scenes from Genesis – including Jonah and the Whale, the Drunkenness of Noah, The Flood, and the Sacrifice of Noah – and prophets. The vast majority of the 5,900-square-foot space was done by the artist’s own hand. In true Renaissance spirit, it mixes Old Testament prophets with classical figures. Many consider it the greatest work of art by any one human being.
Sadly, there is no point in my talking in detail about it, as no photography was allowed, and I was in no mood by that time to dwell on it. Besides, there were too many distractions with all the noise, people jostling one another, and the guards hollering and threatening. It was a very unpleasant scene indeed, not one bit enjoyable.
I rank the entire experience near or at the bottom of all my travel experiences. I wished I hadn’t wasted one of my two short days in Rome visiting the Vatican Museums. Instead, I should have just wandered aimlessly around the city and enjoyed whatever surprises presented themselves.
*Steps: 13,524, or 5.73 miles*
*Thursday, April 25, 2019*