Sunshine and no crowds–well, hardly any. We got up early to arrive at St. Peter’s at 7am, opening time.
We waited just outside Bernini’s spectacular colonnade, contemplating the fact that the oval space was once Nero’s circus–a chariot racetrack with assorted atrocities against early Christians as extra entertainment.
We were among the first 10 people in line. Our reward? We were allowed in at about 8:10, and suddenly there were quite a few people–some more colorful than others. All were welcome.
Inside, the enormous church feels smaller than it is–the architects, including Michelangelo, made the statues way up high in extra-large sizes, so they seem closer.
There’s a list of all 250 or so Popes, with the dates of their deaths. The two most recent, Benedict and Francis, are not listed because they are still among the living.
A couple of them sleep eternally, enclosed in glass, in the actual church instead of in the crypt below. I’m not sure why this is, but I especially liked the comfy Santa nightcap on this Pope.
Some years ago, I was able to walk right up to Michelangelo’s beautiful Pieta, sculpted when he was just 24. Now, visitors are kept way back–the result of a vandalism incident. It’s like the disappointing view of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre–all jostling people with their cameras.
The closest I got to the Pieta was this plaster copy of it the next day in the Vatican Museums.
Still, St. Peter’s feels very much like a working church, not just a tourist attraction.
I’ll cheerfully visit any time I’m lucky enough to be in Rome.