The Vatican, Rome

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    Pinacoteca: Italian art history at a glance

    by gilabrand Updated Sep 30, 2013

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    When I visited the Vatican, we randomly chose one of the museums, the Pinacoteca, and were very happy with our choice. The collection consists of 460 paintings distributed over eighteen rooms organized by chronology and school, from the 12th century to the 19th century. It includes works by some of the biggest names in the history of Italian painting - Giotto, Fra Angelico, Perugino, Raphael, Leonardo, Veronese, Caravaggio and more. When we were there - the week before Christmas - it was almost empty. Although we do have a background in art history, I think it gives a nice overview, even for non-gallery types.

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    St. Peter’s Square: Its Obelisk

    by von.otter Updated Mar 17, 2013
    The Obelisk, St. Peter���s Square, May 2007
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    Christus Vincit, Christus Regnat, Christus Imperat. Christus ab omni malo plebem suam defendat. (Christ is the victor, Christ is King, Christ is the ruler, May Christ defend His people from all evil).
    —the inscription on the obelisk at St. Peter’s Square.

    Since 1586 an 83-foot tall Egyptian obelisk has stood at the center of St. Peter’s Square. Pope Sixtus V assigned the task to Domenico Fontana, his favorite architect, to relocate it there, originally standing within the spine of Nero’s Circus, located south of St. Peter’s Basilica. It was at this Circus where the martyrdoms of St. Peter and of many other Christians took place.

    In AD 37 the obelisk was brought from Heliopolis, Egypt to Rome by Emperor Caligula. Hewn from a single block of pink granite the obelisk was created on the order of Pharaoh Mencares in 1835 BC to honor the sun. The word ‘obelisk’ comes from obeliscus, meaning “in the shape of a spear.” The obelisk was a symbol of the sun, representing the flow of energy between heaven and earth, a way of connecting with the divine. At the top, the cross, containing a relic of the True Cross, hovers above a star and three hills, the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VII. At the base are four couchant bronze lions, whose tails intertwine, supported by a high pedestal.

    On 30.April.1586, Domenico Fontana and his brother Giovanni put into motion their plan for moving the obelisk to a solid foundation, that had been laid to support it in the center of the piazza. The operation, illustrated in several contemporary engravings, was carried out using hemp ropes, 900 men, 140 horses and 44 winches, and was completed on 10.September of the same year.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part IX

    by von.otter Written Dec 27, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Vatican Radio, May 2007
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    “Salvation and justice are not to be found in revolution, but in evolution through concord. Violence has ever achieved only destruction, not construction; the kindling of passions, not their pacification; the accumulation of hate and destruction, not the reconciliation of the contending parties; and it has reduced men and parties to the difficult task of building slowly after sad experience on the ruins of discord.”
    —Pope Pius XII (1876-1958)

    The signal tower of Radio Vaticana (see photo #1) is located within the Vatican Gardens. Established in 1931 by the father of modern radio, Guglielmo Marconi, Radio Vaticana broadcasts its messages in many languages. http://en.radiovaticana.va/

    Vatican City’s heliport, located in the Vatican Gardens, was built for Pope Paul VI (1963-1978, reigned 1963-1978). It is now regularly use for the reigning pontif to carry out his numerous pastoral journeys, using an Italian Military helicopter. The heliport has been placed under the protection of the Black Madonna of Czestochowa; a bronze image of Our Lady can be seen at the edge of the heliport. During the Second World War, when Vatican City was a neutral zone surrounded by a hostile neighbor, the area now occupied by the heliport was a tennis court, used by the Americans who fled to the Vatican when war was declared.

    The grounds of the Vatican Gardens are dotted with sculpture, both sacred and profane (see photos #3 & #4).

    An allée of olive trees (see photo #5) is near the Vatican’s heliport.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part IX

    by von.otter Updated Dec 24, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, May 2007
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    “All life demands struggle. Those who have everything given to them become lazy, selfish, and insensitive to the real values of life. The very striving and hard work that we so constantly try to avoid is the major building block in the person we are today.”
    —Pope Paul VI (1897-1978, reigned 1963-1978)

    Covering 57 acres the Vatican Gardens, Giardini Vaticani, has devoted some ground to a formal garden in the Italian style!

    The symmetrically arranged and carefully trimmed boxwood hedges line the area’s perimeter, as well as several white marble fountains.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part VIII

    by von.otter Written Dec 7, 2012
    Fountain of the Towers, Vatican City, May 2007
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    “Technological society has succeeded in multiplying the opportunities for pleasure, but it has great difficulty in generating joy.”
    —Pope Paul VI (1897-1978, reigned 1963-1978)

    Another fountain in the Vatican Gardens is the Fountain of the Towers, bearing the coat-of-arms of Pope Paolo V (1552-1621, reigned 1605-1621)The Holy Father was a member of the Borghese family; and as did many Renaissance popes, he used his family coat-of-arms, which includes a winged dragon, used as the water spout. Flanking either side of the fountain are fortress-like towers topped by sculptures of winged dragons.

    Standing opposite from the Casina of Pius IV (see von.otter’s Rome Things-To-Do Tip, Vatican Gardens, Part VI), this 1606 monument is also known as the Fountain of the Sacrament, in Italian, Fontana del Santissimo Sacramento; because it resembles an altar, and the spray of water from the dragon’s mouth is said to resembles the rays of a sunburst of a monstrance.

    Jan Van Santen, named in Italian Giovanni Vasanzio, was a Dutch architect, engraver and carver, born in Utrecht in 1550 and died in Rome in 1621. Van Santan worked extensively for the Borghese family; he designed this fountain, as well as the Fontana dell’Aquilone (see von.otter’s Rome Things-To-Do Tip, Vatican Gardens, Part III) in the Vatican Gardens.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part VII

    by von.otter Written Nov 18, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Casina Pio IV, May 2007
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    “Somebody should tell us, right at the start of our lives, that we are dying. Then we might live life to the limit, every minute of every day. Do it! I say. Whatever you want to do, do it now! There are only so many tomorrows.”
    —Pope Paul VI (1897-1978, reigned 1963-1978)

    Since 1926, the Casina of Pius IV has housed the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, which includes the Academy of the Sciences and Social Sciences. Made up of eighty scientists, selected from around the world, the members are appointed for life by the Pope. Candidates for the Academy are chosen on the basis of their original scientific studies and their moral character, without consideration of ethnic or religious background.

    The Academy’s goal is to promote the advancement in the mathematical, physical and natural sciences as well as to advance the understanding of the history and philosophy of science. It promotes scientific investigations and research, which can contribute, in the appropriate areas, to the exploration of moral, social and spiritual problems. Findings of the international scientific conferences held at the Pontifical Academy of Sciences are passed along to the Holy Father. In the pursuit of promoting scientific research, every two years the Academy awards the Pius XI Medal to a young .xes in the

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    Vatican Gardens, Part VI

    by von.otter Written Nov 18, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Casina Pio IV, May 2007
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    “If we wish to make any progress in the service of God we must begin every day of our life with new eagerness. We must keep ourselves in the presence of God as much as possible and have no other view or end in all our actions but the divine honor.”
    — St. Charles Borromeo (1538-1584)

    Within the Vatican Gardens, visible from the Vatican Museums Galleries (see photo #2), leading to and from the Sistine Chapel, stands the Casina of Pius IV. Begun in 1553 and completed in 1562, Pirro Ligorio and Sallustio Perruzzi served as the principle architects.

    This delightful architectural complex is made up of two pavilions and two arched gateways, connected by an oval courtyard. The villa is decorated with sculpture, high reliefs, bas-reliefs, festoons and friezes. Pope Pius IV used this secluded retreat to enjoy moments of peace and solitude. The Holy Father’s nephew, St. Charles Borromeo, then Cardinal Secretary of State, held his evening literary gatherings here.

    Pius IV was a Medici; the family’s coat-of-arms (see photo #5) was incorporated into the casina’s decoration.

    Thanks to the generous support of the Homeland Foundation, New York, the Vatican was able to complete an extensive three-year restoration project to Casina Pio IV.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part V

    by von.otter Written Nov 18, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Jasmine Trellises , May 2007
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    “Earth laughs in flowers.”
    —Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882)

    High on one of the hills within the Vatican Gardens, archway trellises stood, covered with fragrant jasmine. The trellises were repeated in other parts of the Gardens too.

    There are 200 species of jasmine and only one is native to Europe; it is native to the tropical and subtropical areas of Asia, Africa, and Australasia. Although they are not native to Europe, jasmine some species have made themselves at home in Europe’s Mediterranean region.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part IV

    by von.otter Written Nov 17, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, St. Peter's Dome, May 2007
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    “You are ‘Rock’ and on this rock I will build my Church, to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven.”
    —from the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew, Chapter 16, Verse 18. This inscription, in 8-foot high letters, encircles the base of the dome on the Basilica’s interior.

    Visible from just about every point within the Vatican Gardens, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica was designed by Michelangelo; but when he died in 1564, aged 89, it was only completed to the base. It was completed by Giacomo della Porta in 1590.

    The drum is 65.6 feet high, containing 16 windows. At this point the Basilica is 240 feet from the ground. Here is where the cupola, erected under the pontificate of Sixtus V, rises to a height of 450 feet. It is 138 feet wide.

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    'Vatican Gardens, Part III

    by von.otter Written Nov 17, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Fontana dell���Aquilone, May 2007
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    “If God created shadows it was to better emphasize the light”
    —Pope John XXIII (1881-1963 reigned 1958-63)

    Designed by Giovanni Vesanzio, Fontana dell’Aquilone (Fountain of the Eagle), located in the Vatican Gardens, was built to celebrate the arrival of water at the Vatican from the Acqua Paola. The high calcium content of aqueduct’s water has, over the centuries, created its own art work on this impressive fountain.

    The Borghese Pope Paul V (1552-1621, reigned 1605-1621) commissioned the fountain in 1612; the eagle is the dominate feature of the Borghese family coat-of-arms. The Holy Father restored the ancient Roman aqueduct, Aqua Traiana, which was renamed Aqua Paola, in his honor.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part II

    by von.otter Written Nov 17, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Torre San Giovanni, May 2007
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    “Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes.”
    —Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

    As part of the walls surrounding Vatican City, at the westernmost point, there is a little-used gate known as Porta Pertusa; a rough translation is Hole Gate, which suggests a narrow or small entrance.

    Rising above this spot is the tall, round Torre San Giovanni (St.John's Tower, see photos #1, #2, & #3), overlooking the gate from inside the Vatican Gardens. Built in the mid-15th century by order of Pope Nicholas V, it provided extra protection for the walls, which by that time were already 500 years old.

    In the 1950s, the tower was turned into a habitable outbuilding for VIP guests of the Vatican State. In June 2008, Pope Benedict XVI met with President George W. Bush in St John’s Tower.

    Throughout the Vatican Gardens evidence of the area’s long history, including its connection to the Ancient Rome, are visible everywhere, such as the bust of appears to be a Roman emperor or senator (see photos #4 & #5), perched atop a wall surrounding the Gardens.

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    Vatican Gardens, Part I

    by von.otter Written Nov 17, 2012
    Vatican Gardens, Lourdes Grotto, May 2007
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    “I have a sweet tooth for song and music. This is my Polish sin.”
    —Pope John Paul II (1920-2005)

    Within the Vatican Gardens there is a particularly interesting sight; the Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto (see photos #1, #2 & #3). Presented to Pope Leo XIII in 1902 by the Bishop of Tarbes on behalf of by French Catholics, it is a replica of the famous grotto in the town of Lourdes, France.

    This is special spot where Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have prayed.

    Campana del Giubileo 2000 (see photos #4 & #5), the Jubilee Bell of 2000 pays tribute to Pope John Paul II, who celebrated the Great Jubilee Year of 2000. Within the Roman Catholic Church, a Jubilee takes place ever 25 years; during the 12 months of such a year, pilgrims come to Rome, pass through the Holy Doors of Rome’s four Patriarchal Basilicas, and their sins are wiped away.

    The memento bell stands in a clearing in the Vatican Gardens. The image of John Paul II can be seen on one side of the bell, passing through the Holy Doors of St. Peter’s Basilica.

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    08-Vatican-01-Intro-Military Planning

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    You can’t do justice to the vast Vatican Museums in one visit, it’s just not possible. It is too varied, too large, too rich, too huge. It is a collection of art and artefacts that date back to pre-historic times down to the contemporary age. Each room is filled with treasures that beggars description and many, many more lie in the sunken bellows of the Vatican, yet to see the light of day. To this multitudinous collection, add the horde of tourists, not to mention the equally large tour groups and you have the perfect recipe for a very exhausting day.

    There is a way around this, fortunately but it involves a bit of military planning. First, book your ticket online. You’ll probably get an afternoon slot as the morning timings are generally taken up by the large, unwieldy tour groups. Second, take a guided tour the first day and go solo the next day: the guided tour highlights all the important rooms and the ‘must-see’ artefacts; going solo is a kind of revision, an act of regurgitation, like a cow sitting in a shady spot contentedly re-munching the grass. Third, eat a hearty lunch and carry your water bottle. The cafeteria inside serves victuals which are exorbitantly-priced to a captive bunch of tourists. Fourth, don’t take a large bag or backpack – you’ll be directed to the cloakroom and at the end of your itinerary you’ll have to back-track 2 kms to collect your bag. It’s just not worth the effort. Fifth, do a bit of reading on the various objects displayed in the Vatican Museum and the artists behind these artefacts. Sixth, sensible walking shoes and a modest dress, go without saying. Finally and most importantly, have a definite plan of attack else you’ll be wandering around like a headless chicken. In other words, choose your rooms and your artefacts with care because even after 5 hours you’ll still not have scratched the surface.

    First Written: Sept. 6, 2012

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    08-Vatican-02-Reception

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    If you have booked online, arrive at least 30 minutes before your appointed hour to ‘case the joint’. You don’t have to stand in that mile-long queue. Rather, you go round, keeping the high Vatican wall near your left arm till you reach a side entrance. You enter through a glass-cased revolving door and then go through an airport-style security check, complete with an X-Ray of your bags. A huge hall greets you. Along your left wall, you’ll find a bank of desks for tickets. You climb up a few steps and next to the souvenir shop will be another set of desks. You hand over your email ticket in exchange for a proper ticket. You then wait for your group members and your guide.

    First Written: Sept. 6, 2012

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    08-Vatican-03-Vatican in Miniature

    by anilpradhanshillong Updated Sep 27, 2012

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    It was a chance discovery that spawned the world’s largest museum. In 1506, the famous Laocoonte sculpture, described by Pliny, was discovered in the Esquiline Hill. The sculpture recreates the tale of Virgil's 'Aeneid' which describes the punishment meted out to the famous seer, Laocoonte, who predicted the use of the Trojan horse by Ulysses. The sculpture shows two mammoth snakes strangling Laocoonte and his two children for this indiscretion.

    Pope Julius II immediately acquired this priceless object and was duly gratified by the stream of visitors who marched to Rome to view this sculpture. This was the chance beginning of the Vatican Museum.

    A succession of Popes thereafter exhibited acute avariciousness for similar objects d’art, a quality though foreign to the tenets of the Bible, resulted in a cornucopia of such splendour that only a personal visit can do justice, with photos coming in as a weak second.

    First Written: Sept. 6, 2012

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