The Vatican from a Sleeper Car
I write this from a sleeper train, on the way from Venice to Vienna. There are 6 bunks in every tiny box of each carriage. India says that this is almost like our AirBnB in Rome, but better, even with the train wheels rattling in the background and the dull bass line leaking from someone’s earphones.
This post isn’t about Venice; maybe I’ll write the Venice post tonight.
Get ready for some culture, to balance out the drinking.
Backtrack 3 days ago, to Wednesday 2nd August. We were meant to visit the Vatican City on Tuesday, but the Bar Crawl the precious night put had longer effects than we had imagined.
I was surprised to learn that The Vatican City, or officialy the Vatican City State, is actually a country. Its location within the city of Rome itself means that it is, unsurprisingly, the smallest nation in the world, with an area of 110 acres and a population of just 1,000.
It has a ruler too: the Pope.
Within the Vatican City are a number of particularly famous paintings and buildings, from St Peter’s Basilica to the Sistine Chapel, to my favourite: Raphael’s painting ‘The School of Athens’.
St Peter’s Basilica is not only the most renowned piece of Renaissance architecture, but the largest and most famous Catholic Church in the world. Saint Peter was the first Pope and one of Jesus’ Apostles; his burial site can be located in the Basilica itself. The site is so significant that there has been a Church on this space since the time of Constantine – the Roman Emperor who legalised Christianity in 313 AD (mentioned him in last post)
The Basilica does not disappoint; it’s interior is truly spectacular, and every Pope has made some sort of addition to the Basilica itself.
What made the Sistine Chapel more exciting was our skill in taking ‘illegal photos’ of it; the guards there who insist that everybody be quiet actually make the place a lot more rowdy by constant shushing and bellowing ‘No photos’ across the room.
The Chapel is found in the Apostolic Palace (aka the Pope’s House). Of course, to get to the Chapel, it is necessary to make the longest trek of your life through the Vatican Museum. But the Sistine Chapel is not necessarily famous for its religious significance or the fact that it is the closest we can get to the Pope’s sitting room; it is best known for its frescos and Michelangelo’s stunning artwork, as seen on the ceiling or ‘The Last Judgement’.
Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the chapel’s ceiling by Pope Julius II between 1508 and 1512, and then ‘The Last Judgement’ a few decades later. His painting would have an unparalleled impact on the course of Western artwork forever.
‘The School of Athens’ was my favourite of all, probably because it has Plato in it, whose recreational drug addiction I researched in my Extended Essay. Long essay short, he did drugs, and so did the rest of Ancient Greeks.
This was painted in the very early 16th century by Raphael for the Apostolic Palace itself. The fresco depicts a wide range of philosophers who sought knowledge of the very first causes of things, such as Plato and Aristotle (the two central figures), but also Socrates and Pythagoras, amongst many others. In fact, so many Ancient philosophers of different time periods, most of whom never met each other, meet here in Raphael’s work.
It is called the School of Athens because Plato created the first University-like institution, in Athens.
Naturally, Raphael painted himself in there too. Fear of Missing Out.
Plato (red), in the fresco, gestures upwards, towards the heavens, possibly indicating elements of his Theory of Forms. Aristotle (blue) gestures forward, emphasising his empiricist philosophy. Hence, Raphael ties in so many different types of philosophy into his work, and that’s pretty cool too.
It’s pretty late now, and someone else just moved into our tiny box cabin, so I think I’ll leave it at that for today and hit the rocks.
It’s now morning, and this didn’t post last night; here’s a pic of Scarlett. It’s too cramped to sit up: