If you are looking for the ideal place to spend a Christmas vacation, you really can’t do better than Vatican City.
Vatican City is a city state and an enclave within Rome, Italy. As you can imagine, there are many cultural and religious sites located within the city including St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums where you will find some of the world’s most famous painting and sculptures.
You can also witness the unique economy of the city firsthand. They are supported purely through donations of the faithful including the sale of postage stamps, souvenirs and publications as well as admission fees to museums.
If Vatican City sounds like the place you want to be this Christmas, here are some things you won’t want to miss.
St. Peter’s Square Christmas Tree
The Christmas tree in St. Peter’s Square is a sight to behold. The tradition of erecting a tree in the city dates back to 1982 when Pope John Paul II introduced the northern European custom to his new home.
Although the first tree was locally sourced, in the following years, trees have been donated by surrounding countries such as Austria, Germany and Poland. It is considered an honor to donate a tree to the Vatican City.
The lighting of the tree typically takes place in early December and it is an event that draws thousands of tourists every year.
Ang Adlaw sa Pagkatawo
The lighting of the tree coincides with the unveiling of the nativity scene. Every year a different scene is featured, and it is always as awe inspiring as the last. A recent scene was created almost entirely out of timber sourced from Scurelle in northern Italy after a devastating storm hit the forest regions. It included over 20 life sized figures.
The Feast of the Immaculate Conception
This is a tradition that started back in 1953. Since then, every year, the pope visits the piazza Mignanelli on the 8th of December to see the Monument of the Immaculate Conception to celebrate Mary’s conception of Christ. The Pope offers the statue of Mary a bouquet of flowers in her honor. The occasion is greeted by much excitement and people that have witnessed it compare it to a presidential inauguration.
Vatican Christmas Concert
Concerto di Natale is an annual event that features internationally renowned performers who take the stage to raise funds to support the city. It is held in mid-December at a major venue, and it is also typically televised.
The Vatican Christmas Eve Mass
The Christmas Eve Mass at St. Peter’s Basilica is a televised event and the most watched Christmas mass in the world. If you would like to attend in person, you will need to apply online and fax in your form. Attendees are granted access on a first come first serve basis.
If you are unable to secure tickets, you may also view the event at St. Peter’s Square. Be sure to get there early, as it can get pretty crowded as well.
Urbi ug Orbi
Urbi et Orbi is a papal address and apostolic blessing given by the pope that takes place at noon on Easter and on Christmas Day at St. Peter’s Square. It is free to attend and open to the public. However, it does get quite crowded, so it is recommended to get there early.
The event is also broadcast worldwide in several languages.
The pope will also be out and about on December 26. It’s on this day when he gives his Papal Blessing. This also occurs at St. Peter’s Square and it is free and open to the public.
Bisitaha ang St. Peter's Basilica
St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the largest churches ever built. It is actually the second basilica on the site. The first was built in the 4th century and was known as the place St. Peter was buried. By the 1400’s, it was in a state of disrepair and it was knocked down and rebuilt.
You can enter the basilica for free but there is typically a line outside so be sure to get their early. You can also check out the Vatican Grottoes underneath the building. Don’t miss out on the entrance near the Pier of St. Andrew by the high altar. This is where you’ll find the tombs and sarcophagi of several popes.
Note, if you exit through the entrance, you will find yourself outside and you will have to wait on a long line to reenter so avoid making this move.
If you are willing to pay a fee, you can also climb St. Peter’s Dome and enter the basilica’s treasury.
Check Out the Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous chapels in the world. It is part of the Apostolic Palace, the Pope’s official residence. It is also the Papal conclave for the election of the new pope.
While inside the chapel, you will be able to view Michelangelo’s stunning artwork that adorns the ceiling. You may even get a selfie with the pope himself.
Make Time for the Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums span nine miles and include fifty-four separate collections with works by Raphael, Leonardo di Vinci and Michelangelo. The sculptures and mosaics are said to be worth over 15 billion euros.
While the Gallery of Maps, Gallery of Statues, Vatican historical Museum and Raphael Rooms are the most popular areas in the complex, if you have time to see all the museums, it will be a worthwhile investment.
Vatican City will provide a religious experience at Christmastime, but you don’t have to be religious to enjoy all it has to offer. It is rich in culture and art making for a trip everyone should take at least once in their lifetime. What will you be enjoying on your visit?