In last week’s post, I explained how we divided Rome so that we could tackle it. Ancient Rome has so many things to see, but Christian Rome has just as many. The ornate churches and beautiful frescoes depicting scenes from the Bible are breathtaking! Here’s where we recommend for a quick tour through Christian Rome:
(I should add the disclaimer that pictures aren’t allowed in many churches in Rome. Unfortunately I don’t have a lot of photos, and when I could take a picture, the lighting was usually very dim.)
The Catacombs of Rome
The catacombs are an underground burial site that began in the 2nd century. It’s the creepiest feeling walking through the dark tunnels with graves on either side of you! Some of the graves have been excavated, but some still remain untouched. We saw bits of pottery and even some bones that were still in their original burial site! The guide was so interesting, and necessary, because it’s so easy to get lost down there.
Holy Staircase (Scala Sancta)
According to Roman Catholic tradition, Constantine’s mother travelled to Jerusalem and brought this staircase back. It is believed to be the stairs that Jesus climbed on his way to his trial in front of Pontius Pilate. Now it is customary for Christians to travel from all over the world to climb the staircase on their knees. Seeing everyone so reverent and respectful was an experience we won’t forget.
Archbasilica of San Giovanni
I’m not Catholic so a lot of the hierarchy and traditions confuse me. However, I do know that this church is absolutely gorgeous! The high altar is beautiful and worth the visit alone.
There’s way too much information about Vatican City for me to include in a brief post. We booked the early morning tour of the Vatican, and it was the best thing we did that day. Yes, that meant we had to be at Vatican City at 7 in the morning, but we got to enter before any of the crowds were allowed in. We were able to take our time through the museum, and the halls were completely empty! If you do a quick internet search, you will see that the hallways in the museum are usually packed shoulder to shoulder. You can’t even cross the hall to see something on the other side. You basically have to just move with the crowd. But this was not our experience at all (thanks to the early morning tour!). In addition to the museum, we were able to see the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter’s Square, and St. Peter’s Basilica. All are a must-do!
Type A Tidbits:
Unbeknownst to us, we visited Vatican City on the Day of Ascension. Since this is a Catholic holiday, no tours were allowed to be given inside the church. Our tour guide spoke with us outside and quietly waited in the back while we took our time looking at everything. We had to save all of our questions for her until we were back outside.
No talking is allowed inside the Sistine Chapel! I wanted so badly to tell Matt to “look at this!” or “let’s go over here,” but we had to keep silent. Obviously people don’t adhere strictly to this rule so anytime the noise level got above a whisper, the guard would say “Silenzio!” in a loud, booming voice!
Watch for the Swiss Guard in their colorful uniforms!
It seems like every corner in Rome has a church. And not just any church… they’re all some of the most beautiful art and architecture I’ve ever seen. You can’t go wrong! Narrowing it down is a real struggle, but hopefully this gives you a little bit of insight!