DAY 20, JUNE 6
(CHRIS) We had planned to get up early so we could get papal audience tickets, but 7 turned to 8 and no one but Jon was up. So we got going a bit late and made the tough, crowded drive into Rome. We called Fr. Wagner (a friend of Jon and his mom) and he said he had tickets for tomorrow and we could pick them up later today. We got great parking two minutes walking from St. Peter's. We saw St. Peter's Square and moved on to the Vatican museum/Sistine Chapel. At the museum, we saw 3,000 year old Egyptian statues and even a mummified body. We saw many more ancient Greek and Roman statues of naked men. We saw 1000 year old missals, vestments, and ciboriurns. There were giant tapestries and gold ceilings. And, of course there was the awesome Sistine Chapel. Michaelangelo was at his best with The Creation and The Last Judgment. There was no video allowed but I filmed a bit until I got caught. Then I filmed from the hip a bit. The chapel was great but hyped up a bit too much. It was pretty small and crowded. Still, we were impressed. Matt even bought us the audio tape tour.
After this, we ate some pizza (cheese, no sauce; we've also had pizza with no cheese but with sauce; America has perfected the pizza.)
(MATT) I must add that although the Sistine Chapel was hyped up quite alot, and that as I first entered I was surprised at its smallness. However, after a few minutes of contemplation and listening to the explanations of the tape, I grew to appreciate, in my own small way, the magnitude of that work. It was truly magnificent. After lunch we went to visit that which we had been waiting for, St. Peter's. On the right as we entered in a little side chapel was my favorite piece of art, the Pieta, behind bulletproof glass. It was huge, but didn't seem at first to be as big as we expected, as usual. We all wandered around in awe for quite some time each wrapped up in our own thoughts. Eventually, we all wandered into the basement and guess what was there, the tomb of St. Peter, beneath the main altar of the church.
I learned from some other tour guide that there was 600 pounds of gold leaf on Bernini's columns. (The bronze of the columns weighs 160 metric tons, I think) and the bronze was taken from the Pantheon, a Roman temple. We regrouped after St. Peter's tomb and walked (ran actually, up the steps to the bottom of the cupola (300 steps?) and it was there that I realized the size of that dome. Sam pointed to the pen in the hand of the St. John icon and said, "See that? It's 5 1/2 feet tall." Wow that icon alone must have been 40 feet tall. We were way above the main altar. After a few minutes there I thought that we were going back down and began another set of steps (220?) These went up the inside edge of the dome, between the inner and outer layers. The next stair was very narrow and leaned more and more 'til we reached the very top of the cupola. Wow! What a view. Hope those ladies hyperventilating 100 steps down make it. We were way above everything else and had a fantastic view of the Eternal City. After a half-hour of contemplation, we headed back down and made our way back to the car and headed to Father Wagner's place.
Another one of Mrs. Carlson's contacts. We met him and spoke to him in his living room for a half hour or so, mostly about traveling and places we have been. Eventually, the conversation took a turn and jokes started flying back and forth. Shortly after, Father suddenly asked if we would like to join him for a "picnic," light supper really. We were very surprised but heartily accepted. He led us to the dining hall and introduced us to the other priests and to Bob Nortz, the brother of a guy Sam knows from Christendom. We all ate, told some more jokes--mostly Pope jokes this time and had a nice time. Soon, Father gave us that which we had been looking for, tickets to a papal audience.
After we left we made our way near the Trevi Fountain, walked to the fountain, had another gelato (ice cream) and sat and watched the people. It was nice and relaxing. We walked home by way of the Spanish steps--which were closed and got back to the campground around 12:30 a.m. We crashed after a quick shower.