That’s Latin for Vatican City, the Catholic Church’s city state in downtown Rome. Now I’m not one for religion of any shape nor of certain religions’ supra-earthly claim of superiority over actually-very-earthly things. The Catholic Church in particular has been on dodgy ground over many things in the last two millennia yet it still has unfathomable status in the lives of people and nations around the world. And at the Vatican, it has established an undeniably photogenic tourist trap.
St. Peters Basilica – and the Square – is magnificent. From every angle.
It’s not all Catholic mysticism, history and solemnity. Vatican as a city state has to function like cities. There’s a post office.
And everything for the Tourists, of course.
Now – a bit of a personal beef. The security at the entrance of St. Peter’s Basilica wouldn’t let me in. Why? I was wearing the wrong shorts. Now they were waving by all sorts of folks in summer attire – male/female, shorts, skirts all at several levels of skimipness. My pale, inoffensive yet atheist legs however were banned. I tried discussing the logic of this in light of the appearance of numerous others, I channelled a bit of Wallace and Gromit referencing The Wrong Trousers but to no avail. So I hung around for a few minutes and mingled in with a tour group to gain access. There’s also a ban on photography which is almost univerally ignored. Including myself with the phone.
There is of course the other side of the Catholic Church and its history that isn’t on full view. A rather innocuous looking building is the Palace of the Holy Office. Or.. The Inquisition.
And of course there is the history of the highly dodgy Popes. I’m thinking the Borgias and in particular Pope Alexander VI, a gent who made Tony Soprano look like Winnie the Pooh. But his tomb is not on view in St Peter’s with the numerous other Popes’. He can however be found about 15 minutes away, in the Spanish national church of Santa Maria in Monserrato degli Spagnoli. But I tracked him down, and there was no issue with the legs. Maybe he wasn’t that bad a Pope.
The Vatican and Catholic presence in Rome is great to visit and is visually and historically fascinating. But I find the overblown sense of self-aggrandizement a bit grating given the mixed history and lust for power that the Vatican represents.
A few practicalities – don’t go early, everyone does this to beat the crowds so there are very large crowds. Mid afternoon is a bit less frenetic. And make sure leg-wear goes to below the knees.
Camera – Ricoh KR-5 / Oriental Seagull 100 and the Huawei P9