Clearly, I am obsessed with Vatican City because I am going to write about it once again (even though I just described St. Peter’s Square when I saw Pope Francis). But, how can one not be obsessed with such an incredible place? Last week, I went on a tour of the underground catacombs and crypts of St. Peter’s, and just this morning I walked up 500 stairs to the very top of the dome. I can’t move because I’m so exhausted from climbing and walking, which means that it’s the perfect time for me to tell you the whole story from bottom to top.
Scavi Tour under St. Peter’s Basilica:
Under St. Peter’s lies centuries upon centuries of ancient history. I got to see ancient tombs and artifacts that belonged to pagans and early Christians. We got to squeeze into tight little caverns and see original art work that has been preserved for who knows how long. Some of the art work was unrecognizable, but I could identify a few simple scenes like The Last Supper, Jonah coming out of a whale, and symbols in a P shape to represent St. Peter. I was struck by how much color was preserved. The pictures showed vibrant reds, greens, and yellows.
The Scavi Tour lead us right under the center of the basilica where St. Peter’s bones are kept. Our tour guide told us an elaborate story about how the bones went from place to place as Christians were being persecuted until finally Constantine took them and buried them in a safe place. Years later, archaeologists dug up graves and tired to determine what bones where St. Peter’s. We can be almost positive that these bones belong to St. Peter, not only because they correspond to the correct time-period and age of St. Peter, but also because every bone is present except for the feet. This makes sense because Peter was crucified upside down, and the Romans would have cut him down from the cross by cutting off his feet. Another piece of evidence is that the bones are stained with purple meaning that they had been wrapped in a purple cloth, which would have been strictly reserved for royalty.
“The third time Jesus said to Peter, ‘Simon, son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was hurt because Jesus asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ He said, ‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ Jesus said, ‘Feed my sheep.'” John 21:17
Inside the Basilica
The Basilica is breathtaking. I spent a long time walking with my head tilted all the way back, so I could see the ceiling. This inevitably led to awkward stumbling and bumping into people. Plus, I must have looked pretty ridiculous with my mouth gaping open in awe. Lord, I can only stumble in front of your majesty.
On Top of the World
Today, I faced my fear of heights and climbed all the way to the top of the dome. Two of my friends and I decided to wake up super early, so we could get there before the crowd. Success! We only waited in line for 15 minutes. When we were leaving at 9 am the line was wrapped around the square (probably 3 hours long!).
Thank you for reading! God Bless!