Vatican City

Academic Travel Update: We packed so much into everyday during travel that I didn't get a chance to blog as much as I would've liked. So even though travel is over now I will continue to update the blog with the multitude of adventures and countless memories made over the last two weeks! So in the upcoming weeks keep checking back for lots of new posts and stories :) Moving on to today's post... Vatican City! 
Vatican City is officially country #7 I have visited during my first year at Franklin. That's right, Vatican City is not only home to the Holy See (the seat of the Roman Catholic church) but it is also the smallest country in the world! A fascinating area about 100acres big with a population of just over 800 people. One day was certainly not enough to absorb the centuries of history in this miniature county, but here are some interesting tidbits I did gather during my day there.  

(#1) If you go to Vatican City you must see the Vatican Museums. The line is typically long (over 5 million people visit every year!) but believe me, it is worth the wait! There is so much to see! In fact it has been calculated that if you spent just 1 minute in front of every painting it would take you nine years to make it through the museum!! The museum holds works by DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raffaello, Caravaggio, etc. I was most impressed by the gorgeous frescos that lined every single room. And of course the masterpiece, The Sistine Chapel. You aren't allowed to take photos inside the chapel because of it's sacred nature but it is truly a masterpiece! 



(#2) I foolishly made an attempt at a panorama in St. Peter's Basilica. I say "foolishly" because St Peter's is one of the largest basilicas in the world. I only was able to capture about 1/6 of the church in this image above (to give you an idea of the size of this church!) Fun Facts: 91 popes are buried beneath the church, It has bells dating to 1288ad, it holds statues from Michelangelo + Bernini, and American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson described St. Peter's as 'an ornament of the earth... the sublime of the beautiful."  
(#3) A common misconception is that Switzerland's policy of neutrality essentially excluded it from important historical events. But upon closer examination I have found that the Swiss everywhere! In fact many European powers have long hired Swiss citizens as mercenaries. Here I am with the Pontifical Swiss Guard who have protected the Pope since 1506 AD. To become a member of the Swiss Guard one must be an unmarried catholic Swiss male who has completed basic training with the Swiss Army and be between 19 and 30 years old. You will also note that their attire hasn't changed much in the last 300 years, they are easily recognizable by the voluminous yellow/blue striped uniform they were although in this picture it is largely obscured by a rain coat. 
(#4) A special view of St. Peter's Square. Not many people get to see it like this. All those chairs occupying a large part of the square are set up for VIP's attending the papal inauguration (more on that in my next post!) the following day. The large white tent (top L) is a four story media tower with broadcasting booths for all my the major news networks. Such an exciting atmosphere!
(#5) While walking back to the hotel from the Vatican we passed by Castel Sant'Angelo and as we crossed the bridge the sun finally came out from behind the clouds!

I hope you all are loving Rome as much as I am! And look out for my next post coming soon! 

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