Roma: Catholic Basics Pt 2

Check out Part 1 for info on English Masses in Rome, Proper attire, St Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums.

The View from the Top- The Cupola

I still can’t get over the dome at St Peter’s and the icing on the cake was taking a trip to the top of the Cupola.  To get to the top of the dome purchase tickets get in line to the right of the portico.  You can walk all the way up (320 steps) for 6 Euro or purchase an elevator ticket for 7 Euro. I say go for the elevator the 1 euro is worth reducing the amount of climbing you do.  Exiting the elevator you are now on the roof.  Smaller domes dot the rooftop but there is no mistaking the big dome!  For those who don’t want to climb the rest of the way to the top there is a gift shop (the best for religious items IMHO) run by nuns on the roof and a small cafe.


Walk to the front and see the statues of the apostles and Christ.  They seem “squat” up close but from the ground they appear in proportion. Genius! 


Wander around the roof a bit, but then its time for the real deal… See that? we’re gonna climb that!IMGP4142

From the roof you enter into the drum (the straight part with windows on the photo above) with an amazing view of the basilica below.


A big surprise for me was that what appears to be panting from the basilica floor below is actually mosaic tile.  All of the art (I mean all of it!) in the Basilica was redone in mosaic tile to preserve it in case of fire.  *Mind blow*  Seeing the mosaics up close I was floored at how intricate they are.


Now it’s time to start climbing!v7

The image on the left is Bryant’s backside as we ascend the staircase leading to the top from the rooftop (photo of the rooftop on the right taken from the top) to the top. At this point it is somewhat wide and easy to navigate, the further you go up the walls become more slanted and at the end you have to go up a narrow spiral staircase, pulling yourself along a rope hanging in the center.

I didn’t have the forethought to bring a video camera but thanks to the interwebs I found someone who did. (set to Michael Jackson’s Bad-lol)

By mosaicon1080

Up on the top the view is breathtaking.  You can wander around the Cupola and get a 360 degree view of Rome.  Stay a while and take lots of photos.

IMGP4137In this photo you can see the rooftop where the elevator drops you off.   It is suggested that you walk down the stairs instead of taking the elevator, we didn’t do this but apparently there are marble plaques on the stair descent that record all the famous people who have visited the Cupola

Tickets ~7 Euro Elevator to roof 6 Euro to walk all the way up. Take the elevator.

Hours: 8 am- 6pm

Fun fact- the top of the Cupola is the highest point in Rome

Papal Audience

Seeing the Pope at the Wednesday Papal audience was a must see, not only Matt and I but also for our friend Tommy. Tommy isn’t Catholic but really wanted to see the Pope.  He was most helpful too, as some of the Pope’s address is in Latin and Tommy actually understood most of it!IMGP3944

Tommy, Adam, Bryant, Kendra, Matt, and I wait in the hot Italian sun for the Papal audience to start. Tip: Bring a hat to keep the sun off of you if visiting in the Spring/Summer. Lordy was it hot!249947_2027159408349_1524966858_2216479_7546922_n

You don’t have to have tickets to be in Saint Peter’s square during the Papal Audience but you won’t get a seat or be close to see the Pope without tickets.  They are free, so its totally worth it to plan ahead and get tickets.


The Audience is multi-lingual.  The Pope addresses the audience primarily in Latin and  recognizes all of the different countries and group represented in multiple languages.  When you return home you can log onto the Vatican website (under Audiences) to see an English transcript of his address. The Pope will also say a blessing over the people (and anything that they bring with them) at the audience.  It is a good idea to purchase any special gifts or Religious items before the Audience and bring them with you.  For example, Matt and I purchased an Crucifix for my Dad.  We brought it with us and it was blessed by the Pope at the audience.  We also brought from home a Rosary that was given to us as a wedding gift.

Time:Wednesday mornings at 10:30 AM

Location: Either St. Peter’s Square or in the Pope Paul VI Audience Hall

Tickets through the Vatican or through Santa Susanna

Papal Blessings

The Holy Father offers blessings for Catholics for special occasions such as Baptisms, Confirmations, marriages, birthdays, and anniversaries. Papal blessings come in the form of  parchment with the name of the blessing recipient and the occasion. The parchment is purchased, the blessing is free.  Matt and I knew that we wanted to get a papal marriage blessing.  We picked out our parchment, filled out forms with information, and paid for the parchment at the Vatican office that handles blessings.  Two months later a mailing tube arrive in our post box from the Vatican.  I recently had the blessing matted and framed.  I hangs in our bedroom.


We went with a beautiful flower and dove design featuring a photo of the Holy Father but there were many beautiful options.


The parchment is hand painted and adorned with the most beautiful calligraphy.


The words bring tears to my eyes.

His Holiness Benedict XVI

cordially imparts

the Apostolic Blessing to

Amy {Maiden name} and

Matthew {Married name}

on the occasion of their Wedding

and invokes an abundance of divine graces,

that their love, consecrated at the alter,

may be an authentic witness of Christian life.

Our Church, Our Town Washington, July 10, 2010


While souvenir shops near the Vatican will sell parchment for papal blessings I found that its best to go to the Vatican office that handles this directly.  The parchment is thick and the panting and calligraphy is extremely well done. The hours that the office is open are somewhat limited though. I believe that we went around 9 AM on Wednesday before the Papal Audience. To find the office inquire with the Swiss Guards who are stationed at an entrance on the right as you approach Vatican City via the Sant’Anna Gate in Via di Porta Angelica.  Ask for the Office of Papal Charities. Once you find the office you will have a wide range of parchments to purchase. The office is staffed by nuns and I found them very friendly and helpful.  If in doubt find a nice English-speaking Priest who is also requesting Papal blessings to help you out.  That’s what we did!

You’ll need to make sure you have all the info you need to fill out the forms.

  • For weddings, the full name of the bride, with her maiden name, and the full name of the groom, along with the name of the Catholic church, city and state, where the ceremony will take place and the date of wedding must be provided;
  • For First Communions and Confirmations, the full name of the recipient, the name of the church, city and state, and the date of the reception of the sacrament must be provided;
  • For wedding anniversaries, the couple’s first names, e.g., John and Joan Doe, must be provided; a blessing will not be issued in the name of a “Mr. and Mrs,” e.g., “Mr. and Mrs. John Doe.”

Via Santa Susanna

Up next, for the more adventuresome Catholic: O the tourist path: go underneath St Peters in archeological excavations and see the final resting place of St Peter.



Filed under We Travel

2 responses to “Roma: Catholic Basics Pt 2

  1. All the photos and descriptions are fantastic and has me itching to go back to Rome! (I haven’t been since sophomore year in high school)

  2. What gorgeous pictures!!! And what a special papal blessing to have 🙂 My grandparents got one when they were married almost 60 years ago and it’s one of their most prized possessions. It’s hanging right in the middle of their living room wall to this day 🙂

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