Vatican City: The Smallest Country in the World

The second half of our full day in Rome was spent touring the smallest country in the world.  Vatican City.  I am not Catholic, but I have always been fascinated by the traditions of the Catholic Church and by the history of the Catholic Church.  (Thank you Showtime for feeding that fascination with The Tudors and The Borgias.)  So I was very excited to sign up for our last and final excusion of our two week European Adventure.  
We started our tour exploring 2 of the 7 Vatican museums.  There is absolutely no way you would be able to see all the Vatican has to offer in just 1 day.  I’m pretty sure I could have gone back for 3 days in a row and STILL not seen everything.  But the bits we did get to see were truly amazing.  
After walking through the museums entrance and up it’s spiral staircase we entered the main courtyard of the museum and greeted the following sites.
The only negative thing about our time in the courtyard was that there was absolutely zero shade and our tour guide stood in front of a collection of billboards with images of the Sistine Chapel on them.  He used them to explain every thing we would be seeing once we got inside the chapel since you’re not allowed to talk while you’re in there.  

After that we traveled into the museum itself.  Now I wish I could say that I remember the name of every single statue, painting, mural, tapestry, and sculpture you are about to see but sadly I cannot.  Especially since this post is coming to you 3 months after my trip.  So just enjoy the pictures and if I remember the name anything I’ll be sure to throw it in! 🙂


This is the first sculpture we stopped at and I do actually remember this one.  It is a sculpture of the Greek God Apollo.  The sculpture’s official name is Apollo Belvedere and was created during the Classical Antiquity period.  It was found in Italy during the 15th century. 
I was amazed by all the mythological, both Greek and Roman, paintings and sculptures found around the Vatican’s museums.  Especially since the Vatican is considering the holiest place in the Christian world (for Catholics anyway).

I loved this view once we left the Roman and Greek mythology section of the museum and moved on to the Ancient Egyptian section.  In the back ground is a sculpture of the Greek God Hercules (one of my favorite Disney movies).  I loved the view because is showcases two different periods in ancient history.  But they seem to seamlessly flow together when you look at them from this angle. 

Our tour guide said this was a coffin for a young child probably from a wealthy Roman family.  I love the detailing on both the coffin above and the item below.

These were tapestries, hand sown during the 12th and 13th centuries. Both depicting scenes from the Bible.  There were at least 5 rooms with floor to ceiling tapestries.

This was the ceiling in a room called the Hall of Maps.  It’s a mixture of 3D paintings and moldings trimmed in gold.  Along the walls were maps of Italy drawn from each major century, from the 12-18th centuries.

It was one of my favorite rooms in the museum!

This room was dedicated to the Virgin Mary.  It held a collection of books spread throughout Christendom after it was determined by the Church that Mary’s immaculate conception of Jesus was free from the stain of original sin.  

After viewing the room dedicated to the Virgin Mary, it was finally time to see the Sistine Chapel. This is the Pope’s official chapel and as such you are not allowed to talk OR take photographs.  I did ok at the no talking part.  But I couldn’t help myself when it cam to the no pictures part.  I was very sneaky though and luckily none of the guards, who kept yelling “SILENCE”  it got too loud in the chapel from all the whispering going on, caught me.

So here is my contraband picture, taken via the front facing camera of my iPhone, of the Sistine Chapel, designed and painted by the famous Michelangelo (the painter, not the turtle).

After viewing the Sistine Chapel, we made our way through St. Peter’s Square and into St. Peter’s Basilica.  Which has to be one of the most beautiful churches I have every seen.  Thank you, Michelangelo.  He was tasked by the Pope to create the church, even though apparently he had been working on another project at the time.  But when you’re summoned by the head of the Church I guess you have to listen.

Thankfully, pictures were allowed inside the church as long as you didn’t use a flash.

This sculpture was also designed by Michelangelo and is called the Pieta.  It is a recreation of Mary holding Jesus after the Crucifixion. I remember having my students look at a picture of this when we studied the Renaissance period in World History.  Seeing it in person is 100% better than seeing it in a photograph.  It is placed behind a pane of bulletproof glass because in 1972 a man came in with a hammer, yelling “I am Jesus Christ, I have risen from the dead”, and destroyed a good portion of Mary.

This is also one of the only works that Michelangelo actually signed.  He did so because a few people had mistakenly given credit to another artist for the creation of the sculpture.  His name is placed directly across Mary’s chest.  I couldn’t see it and sadly my camera lens did not zoom enough for me to get a view of it.

This is the main pulpit in the Vatican and only the Pope is allowed to preach from it.  There are smaller chapels surrounding the main area of the church where cardinals and bishops may deliver sermons from but only the Pope is allowed to deliver them from this one.

There are a series of mosaics around the church that are utterly breathtaking.  They look like paintings from far away but when you get up close you can see that really it’s a series of thousands of pieces of colored glass.  I love how rich the color is and how detailed they are.

Well there ya have it.  A just a few of the highlights of the inside of the church.  We then had a few minutes to explore the courtyard where the Pope does his public appearances.  And the area the rest of the world sees on TV at various times throughout the year.

Our tour guide told us that Pope Francis has made 2016 a pilgrimage year.  So Rome will be expecting millions of pilgrims come next summer.  Thank goodness we chose last summer to go to Rome rather than next summer.

That tiny little chimney you see in the back is where the white and black smoke come out when a new Pope is chosen.  I kept having flashes of the movie EuroTrip while we were exploring the courtyard.

Overall I was blown away by the smallest country in the world.  The amount of history in this place is unreal and as a history buff I was soaking in as much of the information our tour guide had for us as possible.  Even if you’re not Catholic or super religious you will enjoy exploring all the country as to offer.

I would highly recommend having a tour guide with you  because there is so much to see that it can get overwhelming.  And definitely buy your tickets in advance.


Well there ya have it.  A complete recap of my epic European Adventure.  I still can’t believe the trip has come and gone already.  I am already planning where in Europe I want to go summer after next.  After seeing some of the highlights I want to see the rest! 🙂

Linking up for Travel Tuesday!

4 thoughts on “Vatican City: The Smallest Country in the World

  1. One of the things I love the most about Catholic Churches is all of the intricate details and how amazingly beautiful all of the artwork is. All of your pictures are beautiful, but I still can't imagine seeing all of that in person! The Sistene Chapel is probably one of the most recognized places in the whole world and you saw it! That's so amazing! I've loved reading about your Europe trip, so I'm sad your recapping is over too!


  2. I found your blog on the GoAhead facebook page and I love it! I am booked on the same exact tour in May of next year and your blog helped me get a great idea of some of the highlights/details of the trip so thank you so much!!! I wanted to know if you have any specific recommendations on what to pack (I saw that we definitely need comfortable shoes) or anything specific to this GoAhead tour. Also, did you have any chances to do laundry on the tour? Thanks!!


  3. This post makes me really wish I had a real non-phone camera when we went to Rome a few years ago. My pictures from the Vatican are pretty sad. Travis was sneaky and kept taking pictures on the ceiling and I was freaking out that we were going to get in trouble. Although there were quite a few tourists with their huge cameras flashing away pretending the didn't understand. Also, do you count the Vatican as a different country on your list of countries you've been to?


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