Feeling a bit touristy and daring, a couple of us Sooners decided to go and explore the Vatican City and its museums today. I went with high hopes, expecting to find a lavish city filled with the typical roman ornament, but what I actually found was both overwhelming and underwhelming.
The line for the museum is not actually found in Saint Peter’s Square, but around the old city wall to the north where a rather large line had formed (despite the fact the museum did not actually open for another 20 minutes). When turning the corner to enter you are greeted by a rather modern lobby and staircase up to the beginning of the museum, making us question if we were in the correct line to begin with, after all we were going to see the a museum that was established in 1506. We began climbing a spiral ramp with small cases of boats from around the world and over time. The top of the ramp lead to a strange juxtaposition of an older building (now gift shop with a relatively new ramp and large skylight. Seeing these modern elements began to change my expectations for what the rest of the tour had in store.
We began the long tour around the Vatican’s grounds to find room after room filled with statues and nothing more, with the exception of the spectacularly decorated rooms themselves. We walked through what seemed like a hundred rooms (and that probably was not far off) each featuring some sort of breath taking element, from the frescoes to hand carved wood ceilings, to the most detailed mosaics I have ever seen. No room was the same as the last, each covered from floor to ceiling in such decadence that I began to consider the countless hours of work and craft each room took to assemble. This museum housed some truly beautiful artifacts; from every reach of the globe, collected over hundreds and hundreds of years. But what is real on display in the rooms themselves.
The tour took us through to the Sistine Chapel, where we sat in amazement. Every inch covered in paint and featuring the iconic images of Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgment, this is where I was left disappointed. These paintings seem on almost every postcard, taught in every art appreciation course, and continually referenced as being on everyone’s to see bucket list, but you are not prepared for how small these scenes are. It is best described as being told that you get to do see the Eiffel Tower and being brought to Las Vegas opposed to Paris. Despite these minor disappointments you are drawn back into just starring into every fresco. Caty Townsend even declared that if she was the Pope, she would just lie on the floor and gaze up for hours. Adding to the excitement, we realized we were standing in the Sistine Chapel a week before the Pope’s official resignation and the electoral process would begin once more and a new Pope would be elected.
The Vatican Museums are far from disappointing, this is home to some of the most beautiful paintings and tapestries from all over the world. This large collection and the museum itself is a stunning example of the importance the Vatican plays throughout history. I will probably never be surrounded by so much beauty again.