Within the city limits of Rome lies Vatican City, also known as the Holy See. It is owned by the Roman Catholic Church and is a separate country under the rule of Pope John Paul II.

The Vatican has its own stamps, but its currency is for collecting purposes only. Included within the walls are St. Peter's Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and the Vatican Museum.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was painted by Michelangelo. The scenes begin with the creation of the world and end with the story of Noah and the flood. The back wall tells the story of the Last Judgement.

It has recently been restored at the expense of Nippon Television.

The chapel is used by the College of Cardinals when a new Pope is to be elected. A Pope is elected for life, so this is an infrequent occurrence. Cardinals gather here from around the world and are isolated from any outside influences. Once per day, they send up smoke to tell of the progress in the election process. Black smoke means that there has been no new Pope chosen. White smoke indicates that they have made a decision and the announcement, "Habemus Papam!", is made.


The Vatican Museum houses a magnificent collection of artwork that has mainly come from private collections of the families of the Popes.

The ceiling of the museum has many scenes commissioned from artists all over the world.

St. Peter's Basilica is the world's largest Cathedral. We passed through the Porta Sacra, sacred doors which are open only every 25 years and were open for the Jubilee Year, 2,000. Passing through these doors brings a special blessing and forgiveness of past sins.

The Basilica also houses a collection of sacred artwork, most notably, Michelangelo's Pieta.
This is the altar where the Pope celebrates daily Mass.
Most of his public Masses are actually held outdoors to accomodate the large crowds, particularly in the Jubilee Year of 2,000.

The Swiss Guard is reponsible for protecting the Pope and the Vatican.



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