The Catacombs of Saint Callixtus


Built in the 2nd century, the Catacombs of Saint Callixtus contain dozens of martyrs, sixteen popes, and countless Christians over a 33 acres within 5 levels of 12 miles of tunnels.

We took a cab from the Spanish Steps which was about a 20-25 minute ride.  There is a walking tour of the grounds, and another tour of the catacombs, or you can combine the two.

There is no photography allowed in the crypts, however more information can be found here, with photos.

Below are the grounds at Saint Callixtus.

The Vatican Palace II, The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is one of six chapels in the Vatican Palace.  It was built between 1475 and 1483 duringPope Sixtus IV della Rovere and designed by Giovannino de’ Dolci.  The artists who painted the walls were Sandro Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, and Luca Signorelli.  The subject matter to be painted was the biblical history of the world divided into three eras:  the time between the creation of the world and when Moses received the ten commandments, the time between the ten commandments and Christ’s birth, and the Christian era following Christ’s birth.  All the scenes were painted as frescos while the ceiling was painted blue with gold stars.

In 1508 Pope Julius II “requested” Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Michelangelo did not want to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  He considered himself a sculptor, not a painter, and he had never painted using fresco technique prior to the Sistine Chapel.  Information that renders his work even more amazing when you consider the detail.

The ceiling dimensions measure 30 feet by 140 feet.  The ceiling is curved so that the center is just shy of 68 feet high.  This makes the amount of space to be painted around 5000 square feet.  Over this space he would paint nine scenes from the book of Genesis, the Creation of Even, The Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Flood.  Surrounding these in a historical timeline are a variety of old testament prophets and ancestors of Christ–a total of 336 figures.  He also used a technique called pozzolana which uses lime, water and volcanic ash to create the “plaster”.

Michelangelo painted from 1508-1512.  He wrote a poem when he was finished, expressing his feelings about his work on the ceiling.  It’s short and worth the read–quite humorous as he describes the physical consequences of being upside-down for so long.

The Sistine Chapel is truly and amazing work of art, especially the ceiling, and especially when you consider it was painted by someone who didn’t really want to do it.

A small travel tip;  we went in August, and all the heads you see in the photo above show the crowds.  It was literally wall to wall people in the Sistine Chapel–shoulder to shoulder, packed with people.  The only time I’d ever seen anything like that was Jackson Square in New Orleans on New Years Eve.  We were told this is the heaviest tourist time for Rome.

The Vatican Palace, Part I

We went to the Vatican as part of the speed tour, so I would do it again, but differently.  A tip from another traveler suggested that the end of the day, roughly two hours from closing is the best time to see the Vatican.  She said she got the tip from Rick Steve’s or Fodders travel books on Italy.  I had Rick Steve’s, so I must have missed that page.

Seeing the Vatican the way we did was a major deal, and not in a good way.  The line was unbelievable, and the same method once inside of practically sprinting through was annoying to say the least.  The only respite came when a ten year old in our group (who did NOT want to be there) ran off.  The whole place came to a stand still while all the guards and police searched for him.  I would not recommend this tour for kids that age unless they really like historical Rome, but if you do, rest assured, they have an amazing system in place for finding lost children.  Not a single person was allowed to move ’till he was found–quite a feat considering how many people were in there.

The Vatican Palace was built between 498AD and 514AD during the reign of Pope Symmachus on the left bank of the Tiber River in Rome.  It contains some 11,000–yes thousand, rooms on 13.5 acres and in 2003 the property was worth an estimated $1.21 billion not counting the art.  I can’t imagine the dusting and vacuuming.

The Vatican is now used mostly for religious and administrative meetings.  There are many priceless works of art housed within the Vatican and it’s five museums; The Museo Pio-Clementino, the Galleria Chiaramonti, the Braccio Nuovo, the Egyptian Museum, and the Etruscan Museum.  Some of the art is in the form of sculptures, like the ones below.

And some in amazingly detailed paintings on the walls and ceilings.

The museums within, and the art they contain, and the art on the building’s walls and ceilings are breathtakingly amazing.  So amazing that words cannot do them justice.

More on Ancient Rome

As I was looking through my photos, I found myself wondering why all the ones of ancient Rome were from a distance and above.  It occurred to me that I had forgotten that we went twice.  The first time was an organized tour through a local company, prearranged before we arrived in Italy.  I do not recommend this.  It was a huge disappointment.  It reminded me of the jokes you hear about seeing the Grand Canyon where you run to the edge, look out over the expanse for two minutes, then someone says, “O.K., moving on…”

In the first tour, that is exactly what they did.  They drove us to the Spanish Steps where everyone got out and walked to the top where there is a view of ancient Rome from the backside.  We looked over it for a few minutes, then the tour guide announced it was time to move on.  Same for the Colosseum.  Everyone was really ticked.

“You mean we are not going in?”  Several people chimed.

The tour guide looked at his watch, then announced, “No time!  Let’s go!”

That evening we were sitting in a small restaurant where the tables were very close together.  A couple from Ireland at the next table heard us talking about our disappointment of the days tour, and they caught our attention, and leaned in to tell us exactly how to get an awesome tour.

“Go to the Colosseum and stand around and wait for someone to approach you and ask if you want to take a tour.”

We were a little nervous.  DH said, “Is that safe?”

The Irish guy nodded.  “Yes.  They have a license, they can bypass the lines and they will take you everywhere.”

So, with a lot of trepidation, we went back two days later.  Sure enough, within ten minutes a young guy approached us and asked us if we wanted a tour.  We said yes, something we will never regret.  It was amazing.  He asked us to meet him in an hour while he gathered more people for the tour, and when we came back the group was ten people.  Everyone paid him and we were off.  We bypassed the enormous line and walked right in to the Colosseum.  He took us on the ancient Rome tour after a break for lunch.  That’s when I got the shots of the Colosseum from the previous post as well as the following shots of ancient Rome.



The Spanish Steps and Ancient Rome

The Piazza di Spagna and the Piazza Trinita del Monti are on either end of the Spanish steps, with the Trinita dei Monti church at the top.  They are the widest set of steps in all of Europe.  In the Piazza di Spagna at the base, Fontana della Barcaccia.

Every time I look at this I have the same thought:  My, he has a rather high opinion of himself, doesn’t he?

Ancient Rome has been here since the 8th century BC.

Trevi Fountain, Pantheon

The Trevi Fountain marks the end point of an aqueduct.  Originally there was a simple basin to collect the water, but in 1730 Pope Clement XII commissioned a contest to build a more suitable fountain.  The official winner, one Allesandro Galilei was denied the job because he was a Florentine, and thus it was given to the Roman Nicola Salvi.  Work began in 1732 and continued for 30 years, at the end of which Oceanus, or Neptune carved by Pietro Bracci was set in the center.

The Pantheon was commissioned in 118AD by Emperor Hadrian, and is of a circular design.  It was the largest dome in the world until 1436, measuring 142 feet in diameter.  The  height of the occulus, or opening at the top which is the only source of light inside the building is also 142 feet high.

The massive 60 tons that support the portico were quarried in Egypt and moved by barge for construction.

This shot from inside the Panteon, which is now used as a church, shows persecutive of it’s size.

This shot taken inside the Pantheon shows how much light is let in by the single occulus 142 above the photographer.  The opening is 27 feet in diameter and the concrete is 6.5 feet thick.

The tour guide called these tall monuments story poles.  They are carved from top to bottom with scenes that are deciphered into a story.  They occupy several of the squares around Rome.

Italy

I’ve decided to post some pics of Italy from our trip several years ago.  It was a fantastic trip, and I hope to go back again and see the parts we didn’t get to see, like Venice and Capri.

In Rome we stayed a few doors down from Saint Peters Basilica, at the Hotel Columbus.

The location was fantastic for the Vatican and the Basilica.  As it was summer, it was blistering hot, and I packed sleeveless dresses.  This was a mistake, as I could not enter into any churches without sleeves (on my dress, not the church).  I ended up buying a scarf and wrapping it around my shoulders so I could get past the guards.

The Pieta is one of the most moving pieces of art I’ve seen.  One can almost feel Mary’s agony as she holds her dead son.  There is a story told that after Michelangelo carved this magnificent piece, he overheard two workmen discussing it.  Part of their discussion was their disbelief that Michelangelo had indeed sculpted it as they believed him to be too young, so Michelangelo came back in the middle of the night and carved “Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made this” on the sash that Mary wears.

Of course there are many other pieces of beautiful artwork here.

And if you get bored, there is always confession, heard in a multitude of languages…