You heard of the movie called “The Temptation of the Christ?” I’m calling this blog post “The Temptation of the Tourist!”
We live in an age where people whip out their cellphones and take photos of their food they are served in restaurants before they eat. Or they attend their kid’s piano recital and use the video function on their phones to tape it. Whatever occasion you can think of, our phones can be instantly retrieved to document the foods we eat, the places we go, and the friends we meet.
Imagine all the tourists who visit the Sistine Chapel and see Michelangelo’s famous paintings on the ceiling and they have to resist any impulse to pull out their phones — because when one enters the Chapel, you are given two rules:
1. No Photos
2. No Talking
I could visibly see the angst among the people in the Sistine Chapel this morning, at not being able to photograph the incredible sight of Michelangelo’s paintings — the vivid colors, the complexity of the designs, and the vastness of the space. Someone at the microphone had to remind people: Silencio! Silence! and there were guards who saw people have their cameras raised: “NO PHOTOS!” Every few minutes, there was an audible “SSSHHHH!” from the microphone, reminding people not to talk.
Alas, with all their efforts, the temptations were too much to resist, and people were talking to their neighbors, and trying to take photos with their cameras and phones. The din in the chapel from the 500 or so people who visited in the same we did was more than audible; it was downright loud at times.
We had visited a fraction of the Vatican museum in advance of the Sistine Chapel, and our guide told us that art there had been collected over 500 years by the popes. If you spent only 20 seconds viewing each piece of art there, it would take you 12 years to view the entire collection! On any given day, 10,000 to 20,000 people visit the Vatican and even on a November day, it was pretty busy.
That said, there were two moments which gave me pause — the feeling of my eyes being absolutely overwhelmed by the brilliant colors in the Sistine Chapel paintings and realizing that this was The Real Thing; and coming out and seeing the view of St. Peter’s Square in person, something I had seen on TV during the death of Pope John Paul II and the election of Pope Francis more recently. To think that I was actually here in this space really gave me “the willies!”
After the Sistine Chapel, we visited St. Peter’s Basilica, which was built over St. Peter’s grave, which you can see by the area right in front of the altar.
The building is so huge, that there are markings in the floor which show the size of other great cathedrals (such as Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, St. Paul’s London, etc.), and how much smaller they are in comparison to St. Peter’s Basilica, which is the length of two football fields stood end on end. We were told that St. Peter’s can accommodate 90,000 people inside. Wow!
When I came back to the hotel tonight and downloaded my photos, I learned that I took 97 pictures today! Here is just a sample of what I saw today.