Posts Tagged ‘Vatican City’

Virtual Sistine Chapel Tour

One of the highlights of my recent trip to Italy—in addition to the daily, ahem, twice-daily gelato runs—was actually not part of Italy at all. It was the sovereign state of Vatican City (or the Holy See). I have been interested in the world’s smallest independent nation since helping to create the World Edition CultureGrams report on it (we have a Kids report too!).

It did not disappoint. Located in the heart of bustling Rome, The Vatican feels like a different country once you’re inside its walls. It’s still very busy, of course, as one of the world’s top tourist destinations, but the presence of Swiss Guards (a small security force comprised of Catholic Swiss men), the magnitude of St. Peter’s Basilica, and the concentration of masterpieces in such a small area make the Vatican a truly unique place.

A Swiss Guard stands at his post. Photo by Aaron Thompson.

The culmination of any tourist’s visit to the Vatican is, of course, the Sistine Chapel. And though you’re allowed to take all the photos you want in the huge complex of museums you must (get to) pass through on the way to Michelangelo’s crowning work, once you enter the chapel you are greeted with several Italian guards booming out the words “No foto! No foto!”  I have to admit I didn’t fully comply with the rule, though no one yelled at me for looking down in a sea of people looking up.

The floor of the Sistine Chapel. Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

As cool as it was to see in person, you can actually get a much better view of it on an official virtual tour. In addition to being able to see the chapel completely empty (in person it’s shoulder-to-shoulder), you can zoom in on different pieces of the artwork or just contemplate it in silence, without anyone yelling at you.

And in case you thought I was kidding about the gelato . . .

Photo by Rachel Ligairi.

CultureGrams—New Kids Country: Vatican City

The CultureGrams editors are excited to announce a new Kids Edition country report!

Vatican City Kids Report

Vatican City Kids Report landing page

The new Vatican City report includes detailed information on the history, culture, language, food, and daily life of this unique country.

Here are some fascinating Did You Knows about Vatican City:

  • The Vatican army, called the Swiss Guard, is the oldest and smallest army in the world. Its soldiers are highly trained and skilled marksmen, and the pope’s personal safety is their responsibility.
  • With less than 1,000 permanent residents, Vatican City is the smallest country in the world.
  • The Vatican is the only country in the world whose laws are based completely on religious commandments.
  • In 1277, a half-mile-long secret passageway was built, linking the Vatican to Castel Sant’Angelo. This passageway served as an escape route for popes when the Vatican was under attack.

Find out about the Vatican’s history in Ancient Rome, discover the country’s unique Christmas celebrations, and read about the country’s own soccer league, all in this colorful new report.

Discoverer in the News: Pope Francis

Vatican City <br \> by the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

Vatican City
by the Perry-Castaneda Library Map Collection, via ProQuest SIRS Discoverer [Public Domain]

In February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI made an historic announcement: he would resign from his post. A few weeks later, the papal conclave met to elect a new pope. On March 13, a smoke signal from the Vatican City’s Sistine Chapel alerted the world that a decision had been made: Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio would be the new pope. A few days later, following in Catholic tradition, he changed his name to Pope Francis, in honor of St. Francis of Assisi.

Did you know that Pope Francis studied chemistry when he was in high school? And that he always traveled by bus or subway in the city of his birth? Visit Discoverer In the News to learn more about Pope Francis and his life, pre-papal career, and priorities as pope. And if you think you know in what country Pope Francis was born, take this month’s In the News Challenge and see if you are correct! Also, check out the cartoon in the ChallengeQuest and test your analytical skills.