St Peter's Basilica was my favourite thing about Rome. It was breathtaking, words can't even describe the feeling it gave me and the beauty of it - it was the single most beautiful building I have ever stepped foot into. St Peter's is one of the most famous places of worship in Italy, in the World even, steeped in history and meaning, and a mecca for Roman Catholics. Featured in films, TV, books, it's pretty famous and is the even the final resting place of every Pope since St Peter himself.
Since I was a teen my faith slowly disappeared, to the point it was almost non-existent, this was mainly due to two reasons; firstly Bishop Kieran Conry closed down the church I practically grew up in (which I will never, ever, forgive him for...that Church is now being bulldozed and flats built in its place), secondly I know far too many people who have died the past few years, and it's very difficult to still believe in any form of God when you know so many young people who have died.
Over the weekend we visited St Peter's Basilica twice, on the Saturday to have a look around and go up the dome (more on the dome tomorrow - the views over Rome deserve their own post!), and on Sunday for mass. Just being in that church, gradually my faith started returning, until Sunday morning when I walked into St Peter's Basilica to hear the sound of a choir. I followed the voices and found dozens of priests singing in perfect harmony in front of Pope John Paul II's tomb, and that was it. The moment everything came flooding back to me, and I realized that my faith had been there the whole time, it just needed reigniting. It was the most beautiful sound to hear when standing in a place of worship hundreds of years old, where thousands of people over the past two thousand years have walked, and with St Peter's bones somewhere beneath me.
The video is at the bottom of this post, and it really is worth a watch - the priests sound like a professional choir! But for now, I'll take you on a photo tour of this utterly jaw-dropping church...
The artwork and sculptures in St Peter's are just incredible, Michelangelo himself designed the huge dome, and his famous sculpture called Pieta - which is of Mary cradling Jesus after he was brought down from the cross - sits towards the front of the basilica.
As well as all of the amazing sculptures, the ceilings and artwork were just mind-blowing. So. Much. Gold. The whole interior of the church is so extravagant and opulent, but so beautiful. I still can't get over that all of this is nearly 500 years old. It's just really incredible to think that all of this has survived so much, and so many years, and it's still in excellent condition.
There is always something happening at St Peter's Basilica, on the Saturday we stumbled across a huge crowd of people, we moved towards it and saw a bride and her father walking towards one of the chapels with a priest. The crowd grew and security had to come and keep everyone in check, as she walked down the aisle in front of hundreds of total strangers towards her family, friends, and future husband, everyone started clapping and the sound reverberated around the church. It was awesome, I totally wanna get married in St Peter's now! Check out all the people in the pic below!
On Sunday the day was full of various masses, we were lucky enough to go to one in the morning. It was in Italian, and it was beautiful! The only problem was that some people were really disrespectful, I think sometimes people forget that it's a place of worship, it isn't just a tourist attraction. Some people weren't in the mass for the right reasons, they were there to video it and stand up in the middle of it to take selfies with the priests behind them. Then at communion an Asian lady went up, took the bread, and walked off holding it. A security man stopped her and made her put it in her mouth, which she wasn't too happy about. Why did she go up and take it then!? If I was welcomed into a Synagogue or Mosque I would never partake in something I didn't understand, I would sit and watch until I was invited to take part.
After mass we walked around the Basilica again, and as we were walking out we saw another mass starting, this one was a little bit special as it was a big one with a Cardinal and everything! Just look at this huge procession down the main aisle to the high altar!
The guy in the middle in bright red is the Cardinal...it was a bit awkward because everyone thought he was the Pope and I was like 'bitch please, he's just a Cardinal'. Seriously though, how can you not know what the Pope looks like!? His face practically covers Rome, you can't get away from merchandise with his face on it!
We then went outside and after having a coffee and cake, we went to St Peter's Square to see the Pope himself give his Sunday sermon from his window. As his sermon was ending hundreds of colourful balloons were released into the sky by various people, it was a pretty magical sight.
Visiting St Peter's Basilica was pretty special, and it was definitely my favourite part of the whole weekend. It was just breathtakingly beautiful in every way, I don't understand how anyway can't be moved by the sheer size and opulence of it. Just to think of the history behind every single detail of the building. It really was awe-inspiring, and tomorrow I'll be giving you a view from the very top of the Dome - the views over St Peter's Square and Rome are just stunning!
Top Tip: Definitely get there early! We got there around 8:30am each day, and the queue was small and moved quickly, if you get there past 9am, the queue is so huge it stretches right around St Peter's Square. Also the Basilica is free to get in to, you just have to pay for the Dome if you want to go up, which is 5 Euros. Make sure you wear appropriate clothing (cover your shoulders and knees), and don't take any sharp items such as swiss army knives, as you have to go through security scanners.