Top 10 Sacred Places

The Vatican

The independent city-state in the middle of Rome and the nexus of the modern Catholic Church has quite the history. According to Christian tradition, in 64 AD Roman officials executed St. Peter (recognized as the Catholic Church’s first pope) upside down on a cross and buried him in a tomb beneath what is now St. Peter’s Basilica. After Christianity went mainstream in the fourth century, this spiritually weighty location became a pilgrimage destination, ultimately giving birth to the Vatican we know today.

Twenty-first century followers travel to the Holy See to receive blessings from newly-selected Pope Francis (he presents an audience each Wednesday he’s in Rome); recite rosaries and light votive candles in the opulent St. Peter’s Basilica; and even pay their respects at the underground site of St. Peter’s tomb (excavation tours are available by request). Art enthusiasts encounter their own breed of worship in the Vatican Museums and Vatican Palaces, which house the stupefying collection of artistic and archeological treasures amassed by five centuries of popes. Of the dizzying assortment – Iron Age urns, Raphael’s famed “School of Athens,” and Leonardo Da Vinci’s “St. Jerome” are all on display – the Sistine Chapel commands the most attention: Wall panels by Renaissance masters Boticelli and Perugino mingle with Michelangelo’s magnificent ceiling frescoes depicting the biblical tales of creation and judgment.

Molly Fergus



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