The first order of business today in Rome was Vatican City, certainly a must-see for anyone visiting Rome. Though I am not Catholic, it is hard not to find the papal residence compelling. After all, Catholicism touches so many people, making Vatican City the spiritual home for millions of people worldwide. I couldn’t help but be amazed by the thousands of people I saw visiting Vatican City — many of whom had obviously traveled great distances to visit Vatican City.
As a student of history, I couldn’t help but be in awe of Vatican City’s direct link to modern day religion. It is here that Saint Peter — one of Jesus’ 12 disciples — is buried. After he was crucified circa 67, Peter was buried in the area. Pope Anacletus, who followed Peter, built a chapel over Peter’s tomb, the remains of which are on display today. In 324, Constantine built a lavish church on the site — a building that remained until it was demolished in 1506. That same year, Pope Julius II laid the first stone for a new basilica — the start of Saint Peter’s Basilica and the present day Vatican City, which has served as the pope’s home since 1377.
Saint Peter’s Basilica is an amazing structure, every aspect of which is beautifully crafted. The basilica’s dome was designed by the legendary Italian Michelangelo, who died before its construction began in 1588. Under the dome and inside Saint Peter’s Basilica stands monuments, chapels and artwork. Many popes — including John Paul II — are buried in the building’s basement. Just watching people pay their respects to the popes is a sight to behold. The pilgrims’ faith, I found, was very moving.
Vatican City is not only a must-see for Catholics. It is required for everybody, including those who want to understand early Christianity.