My first glimpse of the Vatican was high up on
Aventine Hill in Rome.  Looking through the
keyhole reveals a perfect tunnel view of the

 dome of St. Peters Basilica, the crown jewel
of the Vatican.
This is the view through the keyhole!  The garden
walls are trimmed to become a perfect frame.
From 3 miles away, this is the only time St.
 Peters Basilica, the largest cathedral in the

world, actually looks “small”. 

The Vatican is home to priceless historical works
of art.  “Sphere within a sphere” is a modern bronze
orb that was cast IN the Vatican courtyard, because
it would have been too large for any entryway.
One interpretation is that it represents the church
as the cogs that keep the earth turning.

The Vatican is a separate country within Rome.
Only 110 acres and 900 people, ruled by the pope.
  It is the smallest country in the world,
with its own stamps, passports and coins. A person

becomes a Vatican citizen by appointment (a job).
One their appointment ends, they revert to
Italian citizenship.

Swiss guards, responsible for the
personal security of the pope,  wear
 a unique uniform – unchanged since 1506.
During the middle ages, Switzerland
earned the reputation for having the most

 reliable soldiers, who were virtually
 unbeatable and extremely loyal.
Swiss guards serve as bodyguards, ceremonial guards
 and palace guards for the Vatican.  Guards
must be Swiss, Catholic, male, tall (at least 5′ 9″),
have an “irreproachable” reputation and have
served at least 2 years in the Swiss Army.

They do NOT give tourists directions, ahem.

Vatican is home to the Pieta, a Rennaisance masterpiece
 sculpted by Michelangelo in 1499.  It is the only piece
of art he ever signed.   Mary is represented as a
 very youthful mother of a 33 year old son – her
beauty retained due to her incorruptible purity.
Detail of a huge Bernini marble
sculpture of “Truth Unveiled by
Time” in which the toe of Truth
is pierced by Protestant England.
Martin Luther had argued against
the church funding itself by selling
“indulgences” by which the church
would forgive sins in exchange for

St. Peters Basilica has letters over 6′ tall around the top
 in  Latin which translate to “you are Peter, and o
this rock I will build my church”. 
The names of all the popes buried
at St. Peters Basilica, including
St. Peter himself.

The papal conclave of 2013 had 115 cardinals
putting their heads together to elect the pope.

Only cardinals under the age of 80 have a vote.
They meet, discuss and pray during the conclave
in the Sistine Chapel.
The most famous painting in the Sistine Chapel,
by Michelangelo, showing God creating Adam.
The chapel is such a crazy quilt of paintings and
frescos, it took a while to find this one.  It
 represents probably only 1% of the painted
surface in the chapel.