Rome Day 5 / Vatican Museums

Yesterday not much excitement – worked on setting up the office and set the group up for their dinner at “I 3 Scalini”. Today was so much more. After hours upon hours of working on files with co-workers I accompanied my group to the smallest country in the world – the Vatican.

Our ride through Rome wasn’t too long but the buses were not allowed to pull right up to the doors so right off the bat we had to walk a couple of blocks. We waited in the small area outside the doors and adjusted our radios and at precisely 5:00pm the doors swung open and the Vatican Guards (not the Swiss Guards – we didn’t see them on this day) ushered us in. I had to stay at the entrance to make sure that everyone was in our group and nobody from the general public snuck in (apparenty that happens on occasion) but just before I went in, my Italian associate Massimo (from the tour agency we hired) pulled me aside and said “Jen, do me one favor. When you are in the Sistine Chapel, after the guide is done talking, go to the center of the room and lay on the floor and look up at the ceiling.” There were 61 people in our group including the two guides and myself. The Vatican Museums were closed to all the public this evening – just our little group was there. If you’ve ever been to the Vatican Museums you know that on a normal day, tens of thousands of people pass through. Look at this photo of the Gallery of Maps to get an idea of the wall-to-wall people. And yes, it was just me and 60 other people on this night.

We went through a portion of the Egyptian exhibit (though not the best part I’ve come to find out), walked down the extensive hallways of the Tapestries and Gallery of Maps (note photo link above), all the while followed by Vatican Guards locking the many gates behind us. These hallways were lined with fresco after fresco, on the walls and cielings and it was just unbelievable to think about how many man hours went into them all. All exquisitely done, I might add.

Eventually we were led into the Raphael Rooms where some of the most beautiful works lined the walls and ceiling. The guide taught us the meaning of each work and we spent about 10 minutes in each room (there were three) before finally reaching the grand finale, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel.

What can I say? Nothing in the world could possibly compare. As before, the guide took time to explain details involving the most notable works including the huge wall that was the Last Judgment. One of the most incredible facts is that Michelangelo himself painted every brush stroke in this room, unlike Raphael and other artists of the time who came up with a concept then managed the project.

Once the guide was done Wes (a coworker) and Vanessa (wife of a member from Australia) came up to me and said, “So are we going to lay on the floor?” I had mentioned to them earlier in the evening that we could do this and I guess they were anxious. I responded, “Well, I don’t know…” Our CEO was there and so was my boss’ boss – all our senior executive team, and somehow laying on the floor seemed like it might be inappropriate.

But Vanessa and Wes persisted, saying we’ll never get this chance again so they took me by the hand, led me to the center of the room where all three of us laid down on the floor and peered up right at the Creation of Adam. Next thing we know, there was some sort of shouting coming from the other side of the chapel and I was curious as to what was going on. The image of our Chief Information Officer peering down at me saying, “Jen, you’re not supposed to be laying on the floor – they’re yelling at you” is forever etched into my memory.

Well suffice it to say that the three of us were on our feet in record time and thoroughly humiliated to boot. I later learned that they weren’t allowing this because the number of people in the room exceeded 60 so it was a “safety reason”. Of course the CEO and senior executive team had no idea about this, and they probably never will. Wes and Venessa weren’t exactly keen on me at first either but they got over it – and when I told this story to Massimo he couldn’t believe it – said he’d done it himself twice. Of course I made sure I got my mileage out of that one with plenty of ribbing later on.

I suppose I can just chalk it up to another example of a career-damaging event in my life. I do think that by now they all know me well enough to know that I’m not a “rule-breaker” and would never do something inappropriate like that without first being given permission. Still, doesn’t it seem like something Bridget Jones would have done?

Later Wes, Vanessa and I agreed that very few people in the world can say that they were in the Sistine Chapel with few enough people around to lay on the floor – and even fewer of us can say that we were yelled at by Vatican guards for doing so!

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1 Response to “Rome Day 5 / Vatican Museums”


  1. 1 Darlene (Mom) April 2, 2007 at 8:12 am

    Jen I enjoyed every word of your trip to Italy so far. I especially enjoyed your memorable experience on the Vatican floor. It’s probably something I would have done also…but don’t tell the grandchildren this. The way you write of your experiences you should consider writing a book some day. Your brother Damian is also a very good writter. I will be anxious to read about the rest of you trip. Mom


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