Visiting the Vatican Museums and the Tomb of Blessed JPII - One of My Favorite Days Thus Far

Today was one of my absolute favoritest days here, I think.
We planned on going to the Vatican Museums in the morning and doing something else in the afternoon.  We ended up staying at the museum all day long.  It was amazing.  The boys really truly enjoyed it (minus one post lunch episode from the Luke where I got to nurse a very tired toddler in a room painted from floor to ceiling by the Raphael.  I was self conscious for a second until I realized that the room and the museum itself is filled with nudity in the artwork and I'm pretty sure no one was caring a whit about me).  

We had some trouble meeting our guide and that was stressful but once we did, the day went well.  We had hooked up with him through the Director of Religious Education at our parish who also runs pilgrimages and I'm so glad we did.  His name was David and it was so helpful to have someone guiding us through for the first part of the day.  He left around lunch and then we visited a few of the rooms that we hadn't yet gone to.  The place is so so packed.  For good reason.  It is unbelievable how many treasures are in one place.

I can't tell you how glad I am that I bought that book Meditations on Vatican Art to help us prepare for our trip.  I bought it on a whim and it turned out to be such a grace.  The boys were recognizing the art!  Even before I was!  As soon as we walked into a room, they would point out the different pieces and tell our guide what they were.  We were all pretty stunned.  Seriously, I knew they sort of enjoyed looking at the book for the ten or 15 minutes a day that we were doing it but I had no idea they were soaking it in so much.  I'm so glad we finished it before we left and that God led me to it because it totally felt like a gift from Him for this art-deficient homeschool mom and the day was such a confirmation that I am not totally messing up their education. We were those homeschoolers with thte kids who actually knew things and were really truly appreciating the art!  Even David the four year old was pointing out pictures and describing parts of them.  We've started to realize that his memory is very much like John Paul's.  It made me feel good when Brian was so shocked by everything they were commenting on and leaned over and said, "I'm SO glad you got that book."

Also?  I still can't believe that they let you take pictures in every room except the Sistine Chapel!  I just assumed there would be no photos but they were so relaxed about it and the paintings, artifacts, statues and everything are all close enough to touch!  It really felt like they make a conscious effort to show that they just guard this work but that it really belongs to everyone.

The Transfiguration...this was the first one they recognized.

I took a ton of pictures but here's just a few.  My camera does these stunning pieces absolutely no justice.  

That's our guide David on the left.

I love the ones of Mary nursing Jesus!

In one of the interior squares

He took us to the Carriage Room where they have many of the different carriages and popemobiles restored from over the centuries.

This display was so moving.  This is the popemobile that JPII was in when he was shot.  The scenes on the screen behind from those moments and then his forgiveness of the shooter and the bullet in the Fatima crown.  Tears.
Benedict XVI also used this one.

And then there's this one.  The boys loved it and Luke appreciated the pretend "horses" wearing the harnesses and reins in front.

Another piazza.  That pinecone is an ancient Roman ruin.

Random big head

Nero's bathtub...can you even imagine taking a bath in that?

The famous discus thrower
It's hard to believe these aren't just reproductions...they're the actual real pieces from thousands of years ago some of them iconic.  There was so much Roman art that they've excavated.  Statues and statues.

We were crazy impressed by this one hallway where the entire ceiling and some of the walls look like ornate sculpting.  It's all just painted but you can't tell until you're right under it and even then it's difficult.  All of us couldn't get over that...even the boys were pretty floored.

The Hall of Maps
Brian really liked this part.  Painted maps of every section of Italy for the popes of centuries past to use. No Google Earth back then.

We got such a kick out of this real map from 15hundred something.  That's what they knew about the new world.  You can see Florida to the upper left and then how vague their understanding of North and South America was.   Look how far east the northeastern part of the U.S. and Canada extends and then south of Brazil it just stops.

Then we got to see the Sistine Chapel.  The boys had been looking forward to this for so long.  The room feels much smaller than it looks in pictures but maybe it's because it's packed with people.  Their favorite painting they decided a month or so ago is The Last Judgement.  I find it pretty sobering and terrifying but they are so intrigued by it.

We took a little break for lunch and to let the boys stretch outside.  The food from the cafeteria there was better than anything we've had so far!

They chose to pick flowers.

Back in again, this time on our own sans tour guide.

I wanted to see the Egyptian room, except it's called something much fancier that I can't remember.
I think it's awesome that the Vatican works really hard to preserve art from all over the world and from all different cultures and even religions.  It's all part of our collective story and if they hadn't of preserved much of it it would have been lost or destroyed long ago.   

Some of the pottery was ancient ancient.  That figurine of the female body back there dates back to 5600 B.C.!!  That's over seven thousand years old!!  Also, I found it interesting how the female ideal has changed.  If only drumsticks for thighs and a tiny chest were still considered beautiful...maybe not the crazy elongated neck.  (And I'm sorry but I can't help but think she sort of looks like a skinned chicken.) 

The Raphael Rooms
I didn't get too much of the story behind all of this because it was very crowded and Luke was having a hard time but it is spectacular.  Five or so rooms just covered in gorgeous art.

We went through the Sistine Chapel once more, mostly because the place is a maze and that was how we knew to get out.  Still pretty cool the second time around.

Michael buying a postcard of The Last Judgement.  I can't get enough of them talking to people in Italian and interacting with the people here.

It was already 5:30 by this time so we made a quick stop at St. Peter's to finally see the tomb of Blessed John Paul II.  It had been blocked off during the Masses by curtains.  We weren't sure if we'd be able to get back to it again once Sunday gets closer.


And the tears.  It is so moving.  I miss him so much.
I prayed for all your intentions here as well.  Thank you for letting me.

My little John Paul at the tomb of his namesake
He later said this was one of the parts of the day he was most thankful for.

And that little thing called the Pieta.

My gang of white playing Swiss Guard outside of St. Peter's.

We may or may not have had gelato for dinner and then headed off to bed, another day full and priceless.

Other Notes from Today:
-The tapestries of the Slaughter of the Innocents...oh, my heart.  I couldn't even look at them.
-Next trip we take is going to be a stay in one place vacation.  Which is exactly what I said two years ago when we took that ridiculous trip out West.  And I will probably forget that promise in a couple years when we plan the next one.
-I have the most sacrificing husband in the world.  
-Michael's smile while seeing the art.  And his excitement when he recognized something.
-Luke diving under the chains outside and trying to make a break for private Vatican property.  But maybe a good plan for meeting the pope...
-After today we may have to work seeing the Vatican Gardens into the trip somehow.
-I keep forgetting to note this but we're taking this trip when Brian and I are both 33 years old.  I really find that cool, even if it does make me a little dorky.
-I have only had one glass of wine since I've been here.  Must change that.


  1. Wow -- so beautiful! What a blessing to get see that artwork up close.

  2. The name of the pope escapes me, but he was such a thorn in the side of the Michelangelo that he painted the pope being tormented by demons in hell in the final judgement scene. ;)
    absolutely STUNNING art work.

  3. I am loving all your updates! I keep meaning to comment and never get the chance to, but this trip is so awesome!!! Andrew wanted us to go to Rome this spring but I was reeeeeally not up for trying to either take the kids or leave them at home with somebody... We're not really at the point where international travel is a possibility!

  4. Love reading these posts, Mary!! Yes, it is completely dorky of you to comment on being 33 years old, but I would probably be saying the same thing! Ok - tomorrow you and Brian need to head into a little shop and grab some bottles of wine, cheese, and bread and after the little ones are asleep, enjoy!

  5. I'm loving your updates but I have to comment on this one because the Vatican Museum was my absolute favorite part of visiting Rome (that and having gelato for dinner). I was honestly more impressed with the hall of maps and the Raphael rooms than I was with the Sistine Chapel, and seeing all of your pictures of them brought back all the wonder for me. And it is so great that your boys loved it, too. Keeping you guys in my prayers as you continue this incredible journey

  6. I've been enjoying this whole Italian vacation series. Thank you so much for knocking yourself out over it!

    When you wrote about how the boys knew all the art before they actually saw it, that reminded me so much of how my mother prepared for vacations. I didn't even know she was doing it, but she prepared us so thoroughly! She read tons about where we were going to go and what was there and told us all about it and showed us pictures so that we really knew what we were going to see. She was great at that. Sounds like you are, too!


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