Sistine Chapel Altar - photo courtesy of Dark Rome Tours
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Taking a Family Vacation to the Catholic Homeland

Sistine Chapel Altar - photo courtesy of Dark Rome Tours
Sistine Chapel Altar – photo courtesy of Dark Rome Tours

We welcome this guest post from Sarah Murphy.  Sarah Murphy has worked in Dublin for the last two years as a blogger, web content manager and marketing coordinator. A journalist by training and traveler by nature, she frequently travels to Italy for the business and pleasure of a Vatican Tour, where she mostly spends her time pretending to be a Cardinal.

Many call it the Catholic Pilgrimage but really it is just an excuse to travel and see the main center of Catholicism for around two-thousand years and more. A Vacation to the Vatican City can be an all-encompassing time to spend with the family and experience a piece of your religion that you might not have really gotten to see much of, including a look at the Pope when you attend one of the services he puts on. But where do you begin with your family vacation to the Vatican and how can you make the most of your religious experiences there?

Audience with the Pope

You would think there are huge restrictions to those who can see the Pope, but actually if you don’t mind not being able to touch him, you can see the Pope each week at the Vatican out in the Saint Peter Courtyard conducting a sermon, usually on Wednesdays. There are also possibilities of being able to see some of the members closely associated with the Pope if you take some of the VIP tours that let you move about the Vatican itself in a carefully watched group.

The Holy Staircase and other Holy Items

Considering the Vatican is called the Holy See, it happens to be filled with all sorts of Holy artifacts and oddities that were brought to it or kept there. One of the most famous is the Holy Staircase, which were the supposed steps that Jesus has ascended in Jerusalem before being crucified and was brought to the Vatican by St. Helena.

There is also the Basilica of St. Mary Major, which is the biggest church devoted to the Virgin Mary and houses the cradle or manger that Jesus had been placed in from the famous Nativity scene. You can also find the marble column that was used during the Flagellation of Jesus at the Basilica of Santa Prassede or the supposed ingrained footprints of Jesus at the Basilica of St. Sebastian.

The Pope and Apostle Tombs

Only certain tombs are allowed to be accessed by anyone, but you still can gain access to about eight of the apostles and the most famous Pope, Saint Peter (who also happened to be an apostle). Saint Paul can be found outside the Vatican Walls in the Basilica of Saint Paul, and like Saint Paul many of the other apostles can be found buried in churches named after them. The Vatican church itself is housing around four of the apostles, including Saint Andrew, Saint Simon, and Saint Jude (Not Judas).

There are special tours that will lead you to the graves of the various saints including the ones mentioned above, but other than guided Vatican tours you have limited options for visiting any others. Saint Bartholomew and Saint Paul are generally your only true options. Though there are plenty of Saints you can visit who hold no Pope or Apostle title.

Don’t forget about all the other venues you can find in the Holy City. There are plenty of fountains, museums and gardens to be seen, as well as some beautiful artwork, besides just the churches and mainly holy areas. The Vatican Museum is always a great place to go, as it is vast and provides a variety of rooms with some of the most ancient and beautiful art and statues you will come across.

An audience with the Pope is just the beginning of the adventures in the Holy See.

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