Happy Easter AND April Fool’s Day! Hey, does this mean this is the day Jesus comes back and says, “Ha ha! I was just kidding!”?
In keeping with April Fool’s Day, I will refrain from being my usual serious, reverent, and solemn self. I can only hope my reader(s), and God, forgive me. Although I will admit that at least three of the stated facts in this blog entry are true. Probably.
The picture above is a panorama shot of St. Peter’s Square, which houses St. Peter’s Basilica, which is built on top of St. Peter’s tomb, which was right next to St. Peter’s Grog & Gift Shop until it went out of business.
Just to reiterate, don’t worry, as a former Catholic I’m fully licensed to poke a little fun at the church. Besides, my Confirmation name was Peter, so that gives me further license to do so (it’s true, look it up in the Vatican Chronicles). If you’re not or never were Catholic and you don’t know what Confirmation is, don’t worry. I never did either. I just picked Pete’s name because the nun was looming over me and it was the only apostle’s name I could remember at the time. I was about to say “Thorton Fogbottom,” but this nun was a professional loomer and carried a metal ruler on her hip in a holster, so I thought better of it.
The basilica (so-named because the only thing the laborers were given to eat was basil) is a massive structure, and is the place where you can watch the pope come out and give a sermon, wave his hand to the crowds, check on the weather, or hang his laundry. The first time I was here, my late wife Dolly and I were present when Pope Benedict gave a sermon. It was in German, or Italian, or some third-world language like that. It reminded me of the days when Catholic Mass was all spoken in Latin, which meant going to church was great for an hour’s worth of daydreaming. Anyway, seeing the Pope like we did would have been a lot cooler if Francis had been the Pope at the time, he’s a much more happenin’ dude.
Trivia: Francis and Benedict are roomies. Francis eschews the trappings of Popedom and prefers living humbly, so he rooms with Benny and presumably watches over him a bit since he’s 90 years old. You gotta love a leader like that. Where can we get one?
The picture on the upper left is the Tiber river, so named because Julius Caesar’s little nephew couldn’t pronounce tiger. Which was sad, because “Tiber! Tiber!” were his last words just before the tiger ate him, but no one paid him any mind because no one knew what a tiber was.
You don’t get just any average run-of-the-mill trivia on baldsasquatch.com.
The other pictures are from inside St. Peter’s Square, which features an Egyptian Obelisk to commemorate the only two Catholics who have ever been from Egypt. Made of red granite, it stands 25.5 meters tall, which is 84 feet for those of you who still can’t convert meters to feet in a flash, like we now can. (Well, with the help of an app anyway.) It’s so tall I couldn’t get the very top of it in the picture.
The obelisk was originally erected in Egypt in the city of Heliopolis (where helicopters were invented) by an unknown pharaoh, who is now also known as The Guy Who Built a Monument Impressive Enough to be Moved to the Vatican But No One Knows His Name Anyway. That puts a bit of a damper on any hope that your accomplishments will ever be remembered, huh? It dates back hundreds of years before Christ. I can hardly believe it was transferred from Egypt so long ago, because I can’t imagine moving that thing without a crane and a supertanker. The ancients had magic, I’m sure of it. Although I do wonder how many ships are on the bottom of the Mediterranean, held down by an 80 foot tall piece of granite. “I thought it would float!” were the last words of many an engineer back then.
Once inside, you’re treated to a view of a dead pope, who died many hundreds of years ago from asphyxiation while trying out the box. No one said they were all geniuses. The basilica is the largest church in the world, continuously thumbing its domey nose at the desires of various TV evangelists who would give their left Lear Jet to have the biggest instead.
We climbed the stairs to the top of the basilica; here Carolyn catches her breath after sprinting up all 1,130 steps (320 in metric). There are another 231 to get to the very top for the outside views (both of those latter numbers are true- I looked it up). The walls are lined with mosaic tiles. The inside of the path is lined with a metal grate to prevent cell phones from traveling through someone’s head and tearing the hell out of their alimentary canal. That happened twice, and it rectum both.
While the enormity of the place pretty much grabs you by the throat as soon as you walk in, it’s only by being up at the top and looking down that you realize how big it really is. The basilica, not your throat.
But you know, God takes up a lot of space, so they kind of had to do it.
You don’t get this kind of shot of the inside of the dome from the ground floor. Unless you have a telephoto lens and are a lot better photographer than me, which includes just about everyone, even the dead pope, and every Japanese.
That’s a long way down. Just sayin’.
Moving on from St. Peter’s, we ventured into the Vatican Museum, which includes the Sistine Chapel, which you may have heard of because it was featured on an episode of The Simpsons. The crowds have been coming ever since.
We took a tour with a guide, who kept telling us it would only be two more minutes before we could go in. “Two more minutes!” Ten minutes later: “Two more minutes!” I photoshopped an extra finger on my hand just to be polite in this post, because I’d finally had it with her after the 21st time she said it.
To give her grace, the crowds were ginormous. If we wouldn’t have booked a tour, we would have been one of the Great Unwashed standing outside for hours on end. Instead, we were the Pretty Good And Had a Shower.
Welcome to the Vatican Museum.
To borrow from Emerson, Lake & Palmer, one of whom may have been Catholic:
Welcome back, my friends
To the show that never ends
We’re so glad you could attend
Come inside! Come inside!
The hordes of The Great Unwashed who managed to make it past the door. The museum should have been built in Sardinia, because you feel like a sardine everywhere you go.
At least our group took a shower in the morning, even David the Robot. His ear implant gives him special powers, such as having less hair than me, which is quite an accomplishment.
Did you know the church anointed the pinecone a symbol of fertility? Leave it to the Catholics to pick the most asexual thing it could find for that. They defaced the statues by covering up all the genitals with fig leaves and coffee cups, and then named the pinecone a symbol of fertility. That thing would hurt no matter where you put it! They weren’t just good at guilt, they made people terrified to have sex!
Guido: “Um, darling, this is for fertility.” Darling: “Get the hell away from me with that thing!”
This is what they called the rhythm method.
It was a sin to leave any plaster showing on a ceiling.
But I’ll admit the artwork is pretty gorgeous. This is named, “The Riot After St. Peter’s Grog & Gift Shop Closed Down.”
This statue survived The Great Genital Cover-up, although he did lose a member. Of his fan club. That’s what I meant. He lost a member of his fan club. Yeah that’s it. On the other hand (literally), maybe that’s what in his left hand.
This is Harpo. She stood next to Groucho. The sculptor got good marx for his work.
This is an actual bathtub. I ordered an exact replica from eVaticanBay. I’m sure Carolyn will figure out where to squeeze it in, she’s an expert at that kind of stuff.
These guys had fun throwing grapes at the crowds below. Actually, it’s a painting. Fooled ya, huh? And it’s all 2D; you don’t even need glasses for the 3D effect.
Here’s another bathtub for those sad times when you have to take one all alone. Plus they used them as tombs, true story. At least you went down with a clean corpse!
This is a commemoration of the first time someone tried to use a snake to clean out the bathtub drain. It looks awfully similar to one of my experiences trying to do the same, except I wasn’t naked… although the similarities in our physiques are quite striking.
These statues blow the myth all to hell about walking like an Egyptian. Of course, with all that weight on their heads they couldn’t walk very pharaoh.
This is what a sardine can would look like from the inside if it were a Catholic one.
In the biz, this is what we call a “two dome shot.”
Here’s a one-dome-shot.
By law, no building can be taller than St. Peter’s dome in the historic center. A 30-floor skyscraper in Rome named Torre Eurosky is actually taller (true story, I know you don’t believe most of what I’m writing here, and I can’t imagine why, but this is true). I guess it’s far enough away to steer clear of the law. However, the architect is now going to hell.
They were having a 2 for 1 sale on Pope memorabilia. In a more serious vein, one of the things we’ve noticed in Europe is that most cars are grey, white, or black. Note that there are only a few red ones, and that’s it. I’m not sure why that is. Our next car is going to be purple. But only if I buy it when Carolyn is in the states.
These were all taken from atop the dome. Because of the aforementioned law, this is one of the best vantage points for a view of Rome. I just wish all those people would have gotten out of the way so we could see it!
And now, the coup de gras for our Very Vatical Vatican Visit: the Sistine Chapel.
Unfortunately, photography is prohibited within the Chapel. This is due to, of all things, Nippon TV in Japan getting the rights to all imagery in exchange for ponying up millions for its restoration (again, this is true). Which is ironic because the Japanese have been voted The Most Likely To Take 300 Pictures of the Same Boring Thing While Traveling sixty-three years running (okay, that one may not be true, but only because there’s no award by that name). Of course, now the internet comes along where you can find all the pictures you want of the chapel. I wonder which Japanese executive had to commit harakiri over that deal?
But to still support this arrangement, various guards in the room are constantly shouting “NO PHOTO! NO VIDEO!” as well as “SSSSSHHHH!” when the masses get too noisy. They’re not often invited to weddings.
That said, you can imagine this intrepid rule-breaker thumbing his nose at such conventions (especially after I found out about it being all about copyright law, which meant I wasn’t going to hell for surreptitiously snapping photos). So I cradled my iPhone near my waistline, even using the back camera so the front of the phone would be facing the ground, as if I was only admiring my iPhone case. Since I was trained in spycraft back in the ’80s, I knew all the tricks.
Unfortunately, not all of the attempts turned out so well.
Sometimes my thumb got in the way, and sometimes my head, which looks a lot like a bearded thumb here. Plus I took a shot of the most boring section of ceiling possible. It isn’t easy to bring my loyal reader(s) illegal photographs!
And if you think these are bad, you should see the ones I deleted!
At last! Success! I got this one as we were leaving, figuring I could scurry out the exit before one of the guards took me down with a taser and a chokehold.
Carolyn followed my lead with her own shot of the wall. I shouted, “She did it too!” as we ran out the door.
Here’s another piece of trivia from our guide: When the powers-that-be finally saw what Michelangelo had created, they were a bit uncomfortable with all the nudity. After his death, they painted over as many of the “private parts” as they could. But they didn’t paint over the images on the ceiling because it was just too high for them. Just goes to show, you gotta get high to appreciate nudity!
I’d love to say I took this shot as well, but I just stole it off the internet. Ha ha! Stupid Japan TV!
I stole this paragraph from Wikipedia too:
The Sistine Chapel (/ˌsɪstiːn ˈtʃæpəl/; Latin: Sacellum Sixtinum; Italian: Cappella Sistina [kapˈpɛlla siˈstiːna]) is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescos that decorate the interior, and most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo. Photographs of the chapel are prohibited by copyright. If anyone is caught taking videos or photographs, or even if evidence comes to light afterwards, the penalties can be severe. If you know of any violations of this law, a generous reward is offered. Please report them immediately to http://www.vaticancopyrightlawscofflawsaregoingtohellsohelpthemontheirway.com.