Visiting Vatican City – a place that inspired

My Paternal Grandfather passed away during the same night as Pope John Paul II in 2005. I remember family joking at the time that there hopefully wouldn’t be any confusion on the part of Saint Peter at the pearly gates as Granddad was your typical, rugby mad, Kiwi Octogenarian.

I come from a Catholic family and on the occasion of my Grandparent’s 50th Wedding anniversary some years before they were presented with a written blessing from Pope John Paul II which  hangs to this day in the Hawkes Bay house they lived their lives in.

I visited Rome for the first time in 2010 and have passed through twice since. I was intrigued by what the City might be like, knowing it was steeped in history as well as the home of the Catholic Church and the Pope.

I entered Vatican City, as part of a tour group. Once we were through the airport-style security we were rushed through the corridors of the Vatican Museum at top speed, our guide clearly on a tight schedule and I sadly recall little of the collection.

Vatican City Entrance Inside Vatican City Walls

Inside Vatican City

Vatican City Museum Tour

What I do remember was the ceilings and ornate architecture and features throughout the Vatican City museum.

Vatican City Museum Ceiling

Vatican City Artwork

Vatican City Museum Ceiling

The first I felt of being in a holy place was upon entering the Sistene Chapel, the highlight of the tour of Vatican City for most of our group. Taking photos inside of Michelangelo’s works is forbidden, but I certainly left with a rather tired neck having spent a large interval of time gazing up at the ceiling in wonder and awe of his beautiful work.

Eventually we spilled out into Saint Peter’s Square where the Pope holds audiences and gives his blessing. A few days later I passed by Vatican City on a bus during a Papal Audience and the massive crowds blew my mind despite having seen all the empty chairs and space days earlier.

That a religion of such age stills draw such numbers of people who believe together make this an inspiring and special place.

Vatican City Public Viewing

There were crowds of people inside the huge Saint Peter’s Basilica where we were left free to wander in our own time at the conclusion of the tour. While the light didn’t work very well for my photos it was an amazing space.

Dome Saint Peters Cathedral Rome

But the most inspiring place of all for me was the Papal tomb of Pope John Paul II. He was buried in three coffins (wood, then sealed zinc, then another wooden, adorned coffin), interred with a stone slab over the top. I spent several minutes standing there in the dim candle light thinking of Granddad and considering how different this was to Hastings Lawn Cemetery where I now visit my Grandfather.

Two men who lived completely different lives in the same important period of history on opposite sides of the world and died the same night.

Visiting Vatican City Pinterest


  1. April 8, 2017 / 6:54 pm

    What a gorgeous memory, I have been past in a taxi but would love to see inside

  2. Brooklyn
    April 8, 2017 / 4:42 pm

    I’ve never been a religious person but I would love to go to the Vatican city.
    The photos you took are lovely!

  3. April 8, 2017 / 12:12 am

    I can envisage the two of them – one in silver fern shorts, the other in Papal robes, just waiting paitently at the gates, chatting about the new rugby rules 🙂

  4. The Journey of Christine
    April 6, 2017 / 3:57 am

    When we went to Italy a few weeks ago, I wanted so badly to squeeze Rome and The Vatican City into our itinerary. But it would have been so jammed packed and no fun. Now I have a reason to head back to Italy!

    • April 7, 2017 / 9:11 pm

      I’ve seen some of your beautiful pictures of Italy on Instagram! Visiting Rome and the Vatican City are definitely a couple of reasons to head back.

  5. April 6, 2017 / 1:23 am

    It is pretty amazing that in the world today so many people still flock here. I can see why from your pictures!

    • April 7, 2017 / 9:13 pm

      Thanks Eppie, I don’t really think my pictures don’t really do the frescoes justice!

  6. Elizabeth Harding
    April 4, 2017 / 8:12 pm

    Wow, its so interesting to read such a unique perspective on a place that i’ve experienced in a different way – nice post!

  7. Fashion Matters
    April 4, 2017 / 6:10 am

    looks nice from the inside 🙂 glad to know you were so inspired by this <3

  8. wherejogoes
    April 4, 2017 / 5:56 am

    Stunning painting and frescoes I think you probably have to see them in real life to get the full wow factor. The personal connection with your grandparents, particularly your grandfather dying the same night as Pope John Paul II, is very moving. #travellinkup

    • April 4, 2017 / 5:09 pm

      Thanks Jo! And you’re right – I’d seen pictures in Art History classes but until I saw the frescoes myself I had no grasp of their impact.

  9. Polly (Follow Your Sunshine)
    April 3, 2017 / 8:14 pm

    I’ve loved visiting the Vatican on two separate occasions…unfortunately I also went in the height of summer both times and the queues really put a downer on the experience. It is just about worth it for those stunning frescoes once you’re inside though.

    • April 4, 2017 / 5:07 pm

      I can’t imagine dealing with those queues in the heat. Frescoes was not a word I knew but yes they’re stunning!

  10. Ngaire
    April 3, 2017 / 7:18 pm

    Wow, I never knew he was buried in 3 coffins! When I visited I was turned off by the lines of people, but it sure looks like it would have been worth the wait! Definitely inspiring in more ways than one!

  11. April 2, 2017 / 5:51 am

    The Vatican is a truly wonderful place to visit. However, both times I’ve been it’s been so crowded that it really ruined the experience.

    • April 2, 2017 / 1:11 pm

      True Angie! I think it could be worth paying for a ‘behind the scenes’ type tour to get a chance to explore without the crowds. They were the reason I never went up the dome in the basilica.

  12. Emma Gorowski
    April 1, 2017 / 10:34 pm

    That’s so cool that your grandparents received a blessing from the Pope on their anniversary! I’m the least Catholic person probably possible but as a Pole I still have to kind of like him. I never got to see the square during an audience, only the empty chairs. It is really hard to imagine that many people.

    • April 3, 2017 / 9:15 am

      Yes it was such a unique gift – I’m sure very few people would ever have received one. I’m sure you would have loved Rome as much as I did 🙂