Vatican (Photo credit: tejvanphotos)
The Vatican is a truly unique state within a city, a city-museum which is inextricably linked to the history of the Roman Empire. Here, unique works of the best artists of all ages can be seen literally everywhere. Temples, palaces, museum collections of ancient art, masterpieces of Italian painting and sculpture are noteworthy and attract the guests' attention. Despite the small area of the Vatican, it is widely known throughout the world. The sights of this city make it very attractive for tourists. One of the most beautiful architectural monuments of the Vatican City is the St. Peter's Cathedral. It is located on St. Peter's Square, designed by the famous Bernini. It has an oval shape and is surrounded by a row of pillars, which includes four rows of Doric pillars crowned by a balustrade with the statues of saints. In the center of the square, there is the Egyptian Obelisk, which was brought to the Vatican by Caligula, and two fountains built in the 17th century.
The old cathedral was built by Emperor Constantine in 349 on the spot where, according to the legend, Peter the Apostle had been martyred. The construction of the new building began in 1506 and was later completed by the well-known masters of the Renaissance period Raphael, Michelangelo, and Sangallo. The building of the new St. Peter's was to take the form of a Greek cross, crowned with a huge dome. Continuing the work begun by Bramante, Michelangelo redesigned the project and built the dome of the cathedral.
Another remarkable architectural monument of the Vatican is the residence of the Pope, which was built during the rule of Pope Symmachus in the 6th century. During the Middle Ages, the papal residence was in the Lateran Palace, but at the end of the 14th century it was moved to the Vatican. In 1473, Pope Sixtus IV ordered the construction of the chapel, which was named Sistine Chapel in his honor. His successor, Pope Innocent VIII, began the construction of the second papal palace in the northern part of the city.
St. Paul's Chapel was built in the first half of the 16th century and later became the place, where the magnificent paintings of Michelangelo, 'Conversion of Saint Paul' and 'The Martyrdom of Saint Paul', are stored.
In the Vatican, one can go to a number of different museums. The most interesting ones are the Museum of Egyptian Art, the Pio-Clementino Museum, the Museum of Etruscan art, the Chiaramonti Museum. Here one can find unique exhibits of art, collections of antique statues and mosaic works, including the famous statue of Apollo Belvedere. The Museums of Egyptian and Etruscan art contain a rich collection of paintings. The Chiaramonti Museum displays a collection of archaeological artifacts, Roman statues and busts, including the famous bust of Cicero.
Michelangelo's frescoes, painted on the walls of the Sistine Chapel, are a true masterpiece of the Vatican City. In the Sistine Chapel, there are also works of other great masters of the Renaissance: Perugino, Rosselli, Botticelli, and Signorelli. In the Art Gallery of the Vatican, there is a collection of paintings created during the Renaissance period. Particular attention is paid to the works by Raphael and Leonardo da Vinci.
The major attraction of the city is the Vatican Library, which holds about 65 thousand ancient manuscripts, 400 thousand ancient books, as well as many maps and unique copies of books - the handwritten poetry of Virgil and Cicero. A rich collection of the library also includes manuscripts and letters of art and culture of the Middle Ages, and many different editions of biblical texts.
Vatican City as such does not have a wide network of travel companies simply because of its unique nature. Italian tour operators mainly service the area and Vatican visits are often combined with other local tours.