The Vatican, in addition to being an independent country and the headquarters for the world's Catholics, houses some of the most amazing works of art in the world. However, it was not always here. The site upon which St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican were constructed once was a hill outside the city limits of Rome. For many years, there was a circus next to the hill where chariot races, gladiator fights, and executions were held. There is some documentation that St. Peter was crucified, upside down, in this circus around the time of Nero and buried somewhere in the hill. In fact, at that time, Roman law prohibited burials of any type within the city limits. Many wealthy families built mausoleums in the side of the hill for the burial of their entire household, including slaves. When Constantine decided to build the Basilica, he leveled the hill, thus covering over all these mausoleums. Centuries later, during some renovations to the underpinnings of the columns supporting the Basilica, the existence of the mausoleums were rediscovered, but nothing was done about them at that time. Not until 1939 did any real effort occur to excavate (thus the term Scavi) the mausoleums. These efforts were kept secret until well after World War II. Today, there is a special tour, organized by the Vatican, of this area, but limited to only ten tours of 13 people each. Folks can book this tour through the Vatican Scavi office. During our visit to the Vatican museum (Sistine chapel included) and St. Peter's Basilica, we went on the Scavi tour. Unfortunately the Vatican does not allow any pictures to be taken during this tour.
Part of the Vatican grounds as seen from the Vatican museum.
The famous double spiral staircase in the Vatican museum, based upon the Fibonacci formula.
The fabulous artworks in the Vatican collection include many statues and sculptures.
We even met a relative of Lorraine's (although distant) in the cafeteria of the Vatican. Like Lorraine, her maiden name was Shea and she was from county Kerry in Ireland, and also like Lorraine, she married an Italian man. It is a small world after all.