Travel: Legacy of St. Peter

So, I meant to wake up super early to line up for St. Peter’s Basilica in order to avoid the long lines. This turned out to be a useless endeavor, since my travels had worn down my energy stores. I ended up not arriving in Vatican City until around 10 AM, unfortunately, at that point there was a line wrapping around the circumference of St. Peter’s Square, and it was beginning to drizzle.

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I ended up standing behind a nice couple from the states for the duration of 1.5 hours, and we enjoyed a conversation concerning the weather, traveling, the current state of the economy.

Due to my professional line-waiting experience (from attending the Shanghai World Expo) I was the first to jump on a group that budged their way in front of us. I was not able to eject them however, due to a language barrier, and the lack of efficiency in the overall line system. No barricades or lanes are offered, and all of a sudden a two-person wide line suddenly expanded to an eight-person wide line. I certainly have many suggestions to offer concerning how to improve the basilica’s egress.

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Finally getting inside, I was completely floored by the beauty of the interior. Designed by Donato Bramante , MichelangeloCarlo Maderno, and Gian Lorenzo Bernini, it is known as the most famous example of Renaissance Architecture. Following Roman Catholic tradition, this landmark building lies on the burial site of Saint Peter, the first Bishop of Rome and therefore first in the line of the papal succession. His tomb lies directly below the altar.

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The Pietà was particularly moving. Michelangelo never fails to accurately depict the gradual caress of robes across the human form, or the somber emotion of an event. In this case, it is Mary, lamenting in her loss as she cradles the dead body of her son Jesus.

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After fighting my way out of the masses, I took a break for lunch and treated myself to a delectable Tiramisu (My personal favorite dessert :D).

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I then headed onward to a church known as St. Peter in Chains. It is the resting place of Michelangelo’s Moses.

In the words of Giorgio Vasari:

“Seated in a serious attitude, he rests with one arm on the tables, and with the other holds his long glossy beard, the hairs, so difficult to render in sculpture, being so soft and downy that it seems as if the iron chisel must have become a brush. The beautiful face, like that of a saint and mighty prince, seems as one regards it to need the veil to cover it, so splendid and shining does it appear, and so well has the artist presented in the marble the divinity with which God had endowed that holy countenance. The draperies fall in graceful folds, the muscles of the arms and bones of the hands are of such beauty and perfection, as are the legs and knees, the feet being adorned with excellent shoes, that Moses may now be called the friend of God more than ever, since God has permitted his body to be prepared for the resurrection before the others by the hand of Michelangelo.”
 
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This minor basilica was originally built to house the chains that bound Saint Peter when he was imprisoned in Jerusalem. According to legend, when Empress Eudoxia presented the chains to Pope Leo I, he compared them to the chains of St. Peter’s final imprisonment in the Mamertine Prison and the two chains miraculously fused together.

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Thankfully, the sun reemerged from behind the clouds in the afternoon, and I wrapped up my day by taking a leisurely stroll on the Palatine Hill and exploring the Domus Aurea, a large landscaped portico villa built by the Emperor Nero.

What’s your take on all these Reliquaries? Do you have faith in the miraculous powers they are said to have?

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