Today we went on a tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. The tour started at 8:30 am. We met our tour guide Eleonora in the lobby of the Vatican Museum. It was difficult to take pictures in the hallways due to low light and how fast we had to move. The place was packed with visitors, and it was not easy to linger when something interesting caught your eye. That’s probably why it is always a good idea to purchase a guidebook to re-examine in greater detail what the guide had pointed out during the tour, or you might find something in the book that you never heard mentioned at all! In either case, there is something singularly amazing about experiencing first-hand the Sistine Chapel ceiling and taking in Michaelangelo’s frescoes of familiar stories of the Old Testament, as well as the Last Judgment on the wall behind the altar. And it only makes recalling the experience on your own time just as sweet as you pore over the photos in the guidebook long after the actual experience.

After the tour of the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel, and the Basilica di San Pietro (although I was under the impression we would have free time to wander on our own — instead we had to hand in the audio units outside on the piazza, and be unable to backtrack into the basilica), we were free to get lunch. In the afternoon, we headed out to the Catacombs of St. Callixtus on the Appian Way. We were not to take pictures in the catacombs, but I snuck a few. The one really good shot I didn’t take was the famous image of the martyred St. Cecilia. There would be other copies of this image in other basilicas … but this is where her body is reputedly buried.

st cecilia

The catacombs of St. Callixtus are among the greatest and most important of Rome. They originated about the middle of the second century and are part of a cemeterial complex which occupies an area of 90 acres, with a network of galleries about 12 miles long, in four levels, more than twenty meters deep. In it were buried tens of martyrs, 16 popes and very many Christians. … They are named after the deacon Callixtus who, at the beginning of the third 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. (from

Rolo B Castillo © 2014