One can’t argue the influence that Vatican City has had in the world. You might argue, but you’d lose. I’ve been there twice and its opulence, abundance of art, pomp and mystery has stayed with me. There is a certain awe one can feel when walking across the plaza and into St. Peter’s Basilica.
Getting to the Vatican to see such splendor and traversing where Michelangelo once walked on his way to create his masterpiece on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is not something in everyone’s vacation future. Fortunately, if you head to St. Paul, Minnesota, you can get a taste of the Vatican. (Or course, if you are closer to the Vatican instead of St. Paul, by all means, go to the Vatican.)
The “Vatican Splendors from St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guard” exhibit at the Minnesota History Museum has 200, give or take a few, artworks and artifacts from Vatican City. Many have never left Vatican City before.
One item that interests me is Michelangelo’s drafting compass. He used it when he worked on the Sistine Chapel. The exhibit goes through January 11. If you go to Vatican City anytime soon, you won’t see the compass. It’s in St. Paul.
This exhibit was previously in Cleveland, Ohio and St. Petersburg, Florida.
I recently saw a good friend of mine who returned from a vacation spent in Rome which she deemed fabulous. Instead of hitting several spots in Italy, she and her friend decided to focus on the Eternal City. When I asked her about the highlight, Vatican City was the winner. The Sistine Chapel was one of the reasons.
Having been there myself, I have to say, I can understand her sentiment. I can’t remember the summer crowd that I’m sure was there when I went. I do remember being in awe, as corny as that sounds. St. Peter’s Basilica may be impressive in its size, history and majesty, but there’s something about the Sistine Chapel that is such a story of triumph. Who in his or her right mind would paint a ceiling in such detail these days, particularly when lying on one’s back? Michelangelo would probably be thrilled to find out that his efforts are such a big tourist draw. Also, the Sistine Chapel is listed in Lonely Planet’s Bluelist as being one of the five reasons to look up when in Europe.
When I saw the Sistine Chapel, I knew a tad about its history and could pick out a few images I had seen in pictures before. Mostly, I didn’t know the specifics of what I was looking at. The Sistine Chapel section of the Vatican Musuems Web Page is designed to fill in the details with a virtual tour. You can click on sections of the ceiling to find out specific details about each. This would be a handy virutual tour to take before visiting the chapel in person.