As impressive as the catacombs of Saint Callixtus were in scope and size, I was far more impressed with the catacombs of San Sebastiano. At one point, during the height of their use, the remains of Saints Peter and Paul were moved to the site for safe keeping and veneration. Their remains were moved again to their original burial sites by Constantine once Rome was Christianized. During excavations, numerous clay tablets with prayer petitions etched upon them to the two saints were discovered and are on display in the catacombs today--Sts. Peter and Paul, pray for us!
The ancient Christian frescoes are especially well preserved. Within the depths is the crypt of San Sebastiano with its restored altar and a marble bust of St. Sebastian, believed to be the work of Bernini! Yes, deep underground inside a rough cavern is an artwork of incredible beauty and value.
Right above the catacombs of San Sebastiano is another of the traditional seven pilgrimage churches, San Sebastiano fuori le Mura. Within, one finds the relic remains of St. Sebastian, as well as the tip of one of the arrows which pierced him during his martyrdom, and a cast of the supposed footprints of Christ from the biblical "Quo Vadis, Domine?" Pretty awesome, no?
Our afternoon was spent touring the highlights of the Vatican Museum complex. So many treasures of faith, art, and history make the museum awe inspiring and a bit overwhelming. The Raphael Rooms were among my favorite--absolutely jawdroppingly gorgeous! The color and images are spectacular to see in person. My favorite scene is one of the Angel of the Lord miraculously releasing St. Peter from his chains and imprisonment in Rome.
The iconic Michelangelo Pieta can never be done justice in words or photographs. It is a stunning masterpiece.
Lil' Wingnut and I spent a good while taking in just the side wall paintings of the Sistine Chapel, which weren't even painted by Michelangelo. They vividly depict scenes from the life of Moses. The ceiling will have to be revisited on another trip!
While the statuary, map, tapestry, cabinet, and Raphael rooms were amassed with tourists making their way to the Sistine Chapel, the crowds thinned out significantly after the Chapel as the tour continued on through the Vatican Pinacoteca; a shame so many bypass the paintings' gallery; but a relief for us who tired of the crowds. Contained within the Pinacoteca are so many wonderful artworks from Medieval, Renaissance, and Byzantine artists--Giotto, Lippi, Battista, Raphael, Caravaggio, Da Vinci, and Wenzel Peter. I particularly enjoyed the Carravagio, of course.
After the Vatican Museums, we made our way to the Pantheon and arrived there during a downpour. This was actually an awesome thing, as the oculus is open air and rain poured down into the center of the Church. We visited the Pantheon twice on this trip, both times at night, and I am not certain I've actually seen as much of it as I'd like, so it is on my list to see on our next trip to Italy.
Outside the Catacombs of San Callisto in November
I snapped this photo, because I found it humorous the way in which ancient ruins are used even today as filler for retaining walls, etc.
San Sebastiano fuori le Mura
The lovely bust of Saint Sebastian--I actually had to look this up online because I thought my notes had to be wrong. I thought this bust looked more like Christ than the typical clean shaven depictions of Saint Sebastian. Who am I to question Bernini?!
Relics of Saint Sebastian's martyrdom and the famous Quo Vadis footprints.
We did not visit the Quo Vadis church on this visit. It was a bit of a hike from the catacombs and the weather was beginning to look ominous. Quo Vadis is on my list for next time.
The tomb of San Sebastiano
Crazy boys dancing on ruins
The boys loved the spiral staircase exiting the Vatican Museums. While photography in much of the Vatican Museums is not forbidden (the Sistine Chapel being the exception) this is the only photo I took. I just don't think photos of artwork do the artwork justice, in general and I just wanted to take everything in without lifting my camera to shoot.
Outside the Pantheon
Raphael's tomb within the Pantheon
The open air oculus of the Pantheon
Rain pouring onto the marble floor of the Pantheon