We arose at 7 o’clock, and, after breakfast, we took the car and went to the Hotel de Russie, where we met Grace and Miss Moran. Together we went to the Vatican and got tickets for the Mosaic Works, where we saw some of the artists at work, also many precious old mosaics, and they had many new ones, copies of paintings of old masters, which are for sale at prices ranging from $250.00 up into the thousands.
We then took in the Sistine Chapel. The Salia Regia, in the rear of it, is a hall of reception for royal ambassadors to the Court of the Pontiff and contains frescoes representing events in the history of the Popes. It is impossible to describe the many beautiful pictures and sculptures, ancient and modern, which are to be seen in this treasure house of Art.
I will just mention the Apollo de Belvedere, the most celebrated statue in the world, discovered among the ruins of ancient Autium towards the end of the 15th century and restored by the school of Michael Angelo. Also the group of the Laocoon, which Mich. Angelo pronounced a miracle of art, some fine work of Canova, and a statue of Mercury, the head of which, both in design and expression of the face, has never yet been surpassed.
The Halls of Raphael, with their grand fresco paintings, the Vatican Museum, consisting of the Geographical Gallery, the Galleria dei Candelabri, and the wonderful tapestry copies of Raphael pictures give you fresh surprise every moment.
It is impossible to “Take in” so much in so short a time, and as our stomachs began to grumble, we departed with reluctance and, wending our way around St. Peter’s, and crossing the grand piazza with its wonderful and colossal colonnade, which consists of 284 columns crowned by 86 statues.
We looked up a pretty little German Herberge and sat down to a good German lunch.
After the inner man had been satisfied, we decided that it would be a pity to leave without having a glimpse of the interior of St. Peter, and so we retraced our steps, passing the magnificent Egyptian Obelisque, which was brought to the Piazza from the adjoining circus of Nero.
It is estimated that it cost $43,000.00 to remove the obelisk and set it up again. It is believed that where now the wonderful St. Peter stands, a small oratory was erected to honor the tomb of the great apostle, who was buried here and that Constantine in the year 326 erected a Basilica. To this, many Popes made additions, until, in 1700, the expenses had reached the sum of fifty million dollars.
But this seems but a small sum when you enter the church and look upon the treasures of Art contained therein. I will not attempt to describe any part of it, as words fail me to do so. There are beautiful altars with grand pictures above or opposite to them, monuments, mausoleums, and sarcophagi of Popes made by celebrated sculptors.
We also saw the bronze statue of St. Peter, the right foot of which is worn smooth with the kisses the devotees have given it as a sign of veneration.
Above the high altar (under the copula) where the Pope alone has the right to celebrate Mass, is an imposing canopy in bronze, highly gilted, 63 feet high; the bronze was taken from the Pantheon.
Under this altar is the tomb of St. Peter. The railing and balustrade is surrounded by 87 ever-burning bronze lamps. In the Baptistry Chapel is a Font of Porphyry, twelve feet long and six feet wide, which formerly was the lid of the sarcophagus of Otto II, (died in 974).
But with this, I must close. I cannot possibly describe the grandeur of this church. We are glad to get home dead tired, and, after writing this, I went to bed at 11 o’clock.
I forgot to mention the visit of the Pia coteca, where I saw the “Transfiguration” by Raphael.
Editor’s note: “Herbege” is a hostel.