I FINALLY SAW INSIDE ST. PETER’S BASILICA AND CLIMBED THE DOME!!!
For Faith and Reason class on Thursday, my professor, Father Radu, took us to tour St. Peter’s, climb the dome, have class in Trastevere, attend an Italian prayer service at Santa Maria in Trastevere, and have a group dinner at Trattoria de Gli Amici. This class was an amazing experience!
Going to St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the top must-see attractions in Rome, so it might seem strange that I had not gone until today. So, let me explain a bit of my reasoning behind waiting. Having attended an Ash Wednesday audience, Easter Mass in St. Peter’s Square, and having toured the Vatican Museums on different occasions, I felt like I was not missing out on being in the Vatican by waiting to see inside the Basilica itself. I wanted to wait to tour the inside of the Basilica until I was going for class so that I would have a deep understanding of the art and architecture of the Basilica when I was seeing it for the first time. Also, I thought it would be interesting to save one big thing, like St. Peter’s Basilica, until the end of my time in Rome. The city is full of amazing surprises around every corner, but it was so exciting to have St. Peter’s Basilica be almost like this really big surprise the city had for me as I neared the end of the semester! Also, I will be visiting the Basilica two more times for both my Baroque and Christian Art classes before the semester is over so I will still get to spend lots of time in the Basilica even though that time did not start until now!
When I first walked into the Basilica, it took my breath away. I entered through the main, front door and had a fantastic view down the center of the church. I knew that it was the largest church in the world, but I still did not expect it to be as big as it really was! Each of the side chapels was big enough to be a church within itself and even had individual domes. The first thing we did inside the church was go see Michelangelo’s Pieta. It was amazing to see this beautiful, revolutionary piece of art. Then, we walked to the nave of the church and learned a lot about the different plans for the Basilica and the art that is in the nave and around the altar and apse. It was so crazy to hear about how HUGE everything is. Since the Basilica itself is so large, the art in it is also big, which is what gives you the illusion that it isn’t as big as it actually is.
After taking it all in for a while, we left the Basilica to go climb the dome. We rode the elevator up many flights of stairs, and then walked about 300 stairs all the way to the top! As you got closer and closer to the top, the stairway got smaller and smaller and also began to tilt! It felt almost like we were in Pisa again! Once we got to the top, we got to experience one of the most amazing views of Rome! I walked all the way around the circular terrace and could see the river, many parks, and the Vatican Museums, but my favorite view was out onto St. Peter’s Square.
Soon, we had to climb back down to take a bus to Trastevere. When we arrived, we had a bit of free time to grab a water and a snack. Then, we all gathered together to have an hour of class in one of the classrooms of the Sant’Egidio community. Father Radu is my favorite professor here in Rome, so class was very enjoyable!
After class, we went to the prayer service at Santa Maria in Trastevere. It was really nice because we were all given headsets so that we could hear an English translation of some of the prayers. When the prayers weren’t translated, we were given corresponding page numbers so that we could follow along in Italian!
After the prayer service, we had an experience at our group dinner that particularly stuck out to me. We went to eat at a restaurant called Trattoria de Gli Amici, which means restaurant of the friends. It is a restaurant run by the Community of Sant’Egidio that employs mostly people with special needs. The friends and families of these individuals volunteer to help out in the restaurant to support their loved one who has special needs. It was so heartwarming to see the workers with special needs working right along side their families and friends. Everyone treated them with such dignity and respect. The walls of the restaurant were decorated with art done by their employees and other adults with special needs. The money that the restaurant makes goes back to helping the disadvantaged in Rome and around the world. As someone who wants to work with people with special needs, I found the whole experience very moving. It taught me that I am definitely in the right field!
In all, I had an amazing experience in my on-site Faith and Reason class!!