Just a quick post about going to these museums and the Sistine Chapel. Really, one could write a thesis on each of the different rooms of the museum and the beautiful artwork housed there, so I'm not going to try to give them justice. I simply can't. Each time I thought I had seen something that nothing else could top, I walked into the next room and was again floored by what I was seeing. It's not just the various antiquities that the museums house – the rooms themselves are works of art. I felt kind of delirious trying to see everything, until I just accepted that I couldn't and focused on a few things.
Because it was so busy, it was hard to take the time to really stop and look at what you were seeing. Plus everyone was taking photos so sometimes it was hard to see the real thing because someone's damn camera was in the way. But I usually found a quiet corner where I could just look. Luckily I had an audio guide. Apart from the crowds and cameras, the annoying thing about the museums is they are so poorly catalogued and the pieces have barely any explanation, even with the audio guide I felt like I was missing out on so much. I think they rely on people going with a tour guide who can explain these things, but the museum houses so many thousands of pieces the tour guides can't know everything!
My favourite parts of the museum were the Rafael Rooms (which will make even the most seasoned artist feel inadequate) and the Room of Maps, which had various maps of Italy and was in the most splendid hall.
The Sistine Chapel is right at the end of the museums and you could tell this was where everyone wanted to be. When we got in, I was surprised – it actually looks more like a hall than a chapel. There were a lot of security people there trying to keep the crowds silent and pouncing on anyone who took a photo and making them delete it. However, it was pretty futile. I found the whole experience in the Sistine Chapel rather frustrating because there was just so much to see, but the crowds meant you were constantly being pushed around so you couldn't look up. There were benches on the side and when I eventually managed to get a spot to sit it was better to be able to look at the walls and roof this way, but again, one could spend a year sitting in that chapel and understand only a small portion of what the frescoes are portraying. And I had less than an hour.
What I couldn't get over was the number of couples who, for some reason, found the frescoes to be aphrodesiacs. Honestly the number of people 'getting it on' in both the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican Museum and also (to a lesser extent) St Peter's Basilica, was gross. And to my mind, also disrespectful. I have the same feeling towards people like this (and it's not just because I'm single and bitter by the way!) as I do towards those who took glamour shots at the Concentration Camp in Germany. It really angers me because it's essentially just big-time narcissism – how can people be so wrapped up in their own immediate desires that they can't see the significance of what is around them?!
Anyway, I could rant for a while but you get the idea. In short, don't go to the Sistine Chapel if you are expecting it to have any kind of prayerful atmosphere. However, words could never do it justice so the best I can say is that it is beyond amazing and you have to see it with your own eyes.
Having just read over this post, I've been a bit critical, however that is only because it really is difficult to be around so much beauty and not be able to take the time to appreciate it. I think it may take me many months of remembering and thinking about it to be able to appreciate it more fully. I think that goes for the whole of this trip.
Some photos of the kinds of things to see amongst the many splendors!