Walked down to St. Peter’s square on Christmas day to catch the pope’s Urbi et Orbi blessing, and just to see the general hubub in the cosmic and temporal center of Catholicism.
One of the first things to see when heading north from Porta San Pancrazio is the facade of Michelangelo’s studio (or at least I’ve been told). Don’t quite know the story there, other than that the facade has moved around a bit.
Some lucky girl was getting a Christmas morning pony ride on Via Garibaldi.
The view from Piazza Garibaldi was the clearest I’d seen.
The helical lantern of St. Ivo and the roof of the Pantheon, and snow-covered mountains in the distance:
Turning around from the piazza’s view, Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s is visible through the trees. A little further down the road there’s a nice view of Castel Sant’Angelo and the dome of San Giovanni dei Fiorentini.
As the descent to the vatican begins, one passes Sant’Onofrio al Gianicolo. Among many other things, this was the site of an ancient hermitage, and was once out in the boonies in relation to the city. Here’s a 16th C. view of Sant’Onofrio from the west, the vatican to the left:
And here’s the church now, including the attached cloister. The poet Torquato Tasso spent the last years of his life here at the end of the 16th c., and his cell became a place of pilgrimage for many poets and writers.
Further down, I made my way into the Vatican via the Porta Santo Spirito, through which pilgrims from Trastevere would have passed.
Just inside the porta, Santa was making an escape.
I had arrived in the square just as the pope was finishing up a blessing. It was less crowded than I had expected.
The pope then began a long recitation of Christmas greetings in many languages. Occasionally he would name a language with a large representation in the crowd, prompting a big cheer and sometimes a chant.
When the pope was done, there was a big cheer and the bells began ringing. I moved up a little closer to see the swiss guard and other soldiers and bands marching down the steps as they pulled up the red banner from the balcony.
Besides seeing the Papa, I also came to see the unveiled creche. My low expectations were fulfilled; the actual nativity scene exhibits the same curious level of craft as the rest. A chihuahua shared my opinion.
An expanding group of carolers were singing in front of the creche.
After one last look at the square, I headed over to the church of Santo Spirito, hoping to catch their version of a creche. I arrived just in time to witness an apparently drunk guy walking down the roped-off aisle, chastising either himself or the visitors, I couldn’t quite tell. I only caught mention of Pope John Paul II at the end.
From there I walked along the l’antico Ospedale of Santo Spirito, stopping at the Ruota degli Esposti, or Foundling Wheel, aka “Baby Hatch,” where infants were once anonymously left in the hands of the hospital and registered as matris ignotae (mother unknown), from which we get the Italian swear word “mignotta.”
On my way up past the Amphitheater of Tasso’s Oak, where the poet supposedly meditated, I started to hear a man shouting over the bluff. I thought I might be coming upon another sad Christmas drunk. But I quickly realized his shouts were being answered below, from the Carcere di Regina Coeli – Regina Coeli Prison – along the Tiber. I like to think it was Vicenzo’s brother greeting him on Christmas.
I couldn’t blame Garibaldi for continuing to look askance at the Vatican from the center of his Piazza.