And then comes the most famous church in Rome – St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. We made 2 attempts to visit this fantastic church before finally getting in. The first time, we didn’t have the correct dress code (knees and shoulders must be covered!), but still took a great panoramic below.
St Peter’s Square was another location used in the Angels and Demons film. The square was full of people waiting for the announcement of the new Pope. However, it was all CGI, as I don’t think the Vatican actually allowed the film crews on site.
The second time we tried to go to the basilica, it was closed to the public because the Pope was going to have an address in a few hours. Yawn (sorry whanau) so we went shopping instead.
The third time we tried to go, we were all set and could finally step inside. The nave is so massive, detailed and ornate. Completely unsurprising really. There were so many statues, monuments, memorials, plaques and engravings. So much history and wealth.
The basilica centers on the Papal Altar where only the Pope celebrates Mass. The 95ft canopy was Bernini’s masterpiece and first work in St. Peter’s. The ancient tomb of St. Peter lies directly below the altar.
Another movie location – The Papal Altar and the St Peter’s tomb below also featured in Angels and Demons as the place where Ewan McGregor’s character burns himself at the end of the film. Again, a CGI I think.
Michelangelo’s dome was only completed to the base when he died in 1590. It is supported by four structural piers with a perimeter of 71 m. and a height of 120 m. from the ground to the roof of the lantern. Seriously impressive!
One of St Peter’s Basilica key sights is right near the door – The Pietà (1498–1499). Michelangelo carved it when he was 24 years old, and it is the only one he ever signed. The statue was terribly damaged in 1972 when a man leaped over a guard rail in St Peter’s crying, “I’m Jesus Christ!” and attacked it with a hammer. The left arm of the Virgin was shattered and the nose, left eye and veil were chipped. The statue is now behind bullet proof glass for protection.
The other thing we did while at St Peter’s Basilica was to climb up Michelangelo’s dome. We actually went up the dome before we went into the basilica itself. It’s definitely a walk I would only recommend doing this during cools hours, because it was a heck of a walk. Very neat though.
The dome also got some visuals in Angels and Demons – the image focusing on the smoking chimney indicating whether the cardinals had selected a new pope or not.
And a hell of a view at the top. The Colosseum and Roman Forum are somewhere in the distant right of the scene, but there’s too much… haze… to see them.
A stunning and impressive day at church. Once we finally made it in.