Wanting to devote myself to all the noble objects about me that I could, I decided to exit the chapel and visit some of the other rooms, which by this time would surely be much less crowded than this one. And there is no shortage of other masterpieces to view in other rooms. There is the Stanze di Raffaello, including his philosophical masterpiece The School of Athens; modern religious art by Chagall, Matisse and many others; architectural details executed over many centuries by any number of artists. It's a condensed version of Rome itself in that you will have no problem filling a day (or a week) and still feel as if you missed most of it.
I found myself in the Ethnological Missionary museum, face to face with artifacts brought back to Rome by Pope John Paul II and many of his predecessors on their overseas voyages to lands not traditionally considered Christian in an effort to win converts. These are displayed along with depictions of tribal and non-Christian religions from the Middle East, Asia, Africa, India, and the South Pacific. I found myself wondering about those visits to so-called "pagan" lands -- how much understanding of each other's culture went on, and how much of it was simply trying to convince each other of the validity of their own beliefs. Whatever the motivation, this collection of everything from Buddhist sculpture to carved tribal masks was very different from what one might expect to see here.
Speaking of different, I've also heard that the Vatican Museums hold the largest collection of pornography in the world. I'm not sure why. Maybe I shouldn't ask. But I'm pretty sure that it isn't available for viewing just right now.
For those with an architectural bent, several large garden courtyards make for suitable rest areas when the legs have had enough but the eyeballs want to see more.
The Gallery of Tapestries was a big favorite among the Fibers undergrads and grad students. We had to resist our strong natural instinct to put our hands on the work as part of our assessment of its craft. The Gallery of Maps was one of my personal favorites -- but then, as I said before, I have a foot-high stack of maps at home and I bet you don't, so of course I wanted to see maps of Italy and Venice and the Then-Known World which take up an entire wall with their grandeur.
Then back into the Sistine for one good last look and a few missed details -- hey, that's Perugino's Delivery of the Keys on the wall over there! -- a deep breath to help absorb it all ("seize things one by one as they come"? Wow. Good luck), and it's out the door and into the Portico of St. Peter's, for that slow walk home along the river as things begin to sort themselves out in my head.
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