Study Experiences can arrange a wide range of visits in Rome, such as:
The Vatican Museums & Sistine Chapel
The Vatican Museums were founded under the patronage of two 18th century popes, Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799), who were among the first to open collections of art to the general public for viewing, therefore promoting culture among the masses. Appropriately, the first building in the museum complex, the Pio-Clementine Museum, was named after these two pontiffs. As the decades passed, more popes added to the already impressive collection of diverse artworks owned and displayed by the Vatican.Today, there are 13 museums within the Vatican palaces that are included in the Vatican Museum complex.
One of the highlights is undoubtedly the Sistine Chapel. It takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere. Sixtus started an ambitious programme of decoration within the chapel, by employing a team of the most prestigious artists of the day, including Botticelli, Signorelli, Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli and Perugino. Their task was to cover the upper walls with frescoes depicting episodes from the lives of Moses and Christ. The ceiling vault was painted dark blue and covered with gold stars.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is a shallow barrel vault, about 40m long by 13m wide. In 1506, Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to redecorate much of the chapel. Commissioned by Julius II in 1508-12, Michelangelo frescoed the vault with scenes from Genesis. Together with the older frescoes of the lives of Moses and Christ, these provided a complete history of Man, from creation to redemption. Michelangelo was later commissioned by Pope Paul III to continue the story with a fresco of the Last Judgement over the altar.
St Peter’s Basilica
The basilica is located within the walls of the Vatican, in Saint Peter’s square. It is not the Pope’s official ecclesiastical seat, this is Saint John Lateran, but St Peter’s Basilica is his principal church, where most Papal ceremonies take place, due to its size, proximity to the Papal residence and location within the City walls of the Vatican. It is claimed that St Peter’s Basilica was built at the site of Peter’s crucifixion. Beneath the main altar there is another altar dedicated to St Peter. Recent excavations have discovered a burial chamber beneath this altar containing a skeleton, with its feet missing. Some archaeologists, amongst others, have suggested that these are the actual remains of Saint Peter.
The interior, which includes 45 altars, has been decorated by many famous artists. Some of the most important works in the church are the Pietà by Michelangelo and the papal altar and the Throne of St. Peter, both by Bernini.
The dome or cupola was designed by Michelangelo, when he became chief architect in 1546. When he died in1564, the dome had only been finished as far as the base on which the dome itself sits. Between 1585 and 1590, the architect Giacomo della Porta, with the help of the predominant engineer of the time, Domenico Fontana, constructed the dome.
The Catacombs of St Callixtus
Dating from the middle of the 2nd century the Catacombs of St Callixtus are among the greatest and most important of Rome. Tens of martyrs, 16 popes and many Christians are buried inside what is part of a cemeterial complex. They were named after the deacon Callixtus who, at the beginning of the 3rd century, was appointed by pope Zephyrinus as the administrator of the cemetery and so the catacombs of St.Callixtus became the official cemetery of the Church of Rome. The 30-40 minute guided visit consists of a detailed introduction (history, symbols, crypts and galleries, frescoes and inscriptions) followed by an accompanied walk through the Catacombs. There are no stops as you pass through the crypts and galleries for any further commentary.