The Vatican City has the richest museum in the world, with one of the longest regular entrance queues which usually takes two hours while being the smallest country in the world at the same time.
The majestic and magical Vatican City, which is the papal state in Rome-- the centre of faith for more than one billion people around the globe— measures less than one square kilometers.
During each of my visits to Rome, I saw long queues of awaiting visitors on the entrance to the Vatican City. But on my visit to this holy city last month in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, there were no queues.
The entrance area of the museum was completely empty but as per the official webpage, the museum was open. We bought the entry ticket through the website, which is mandatory now due to pandemic. This was the reason behind the absence of the long queues.
It was a sunny Monday morning in Rome and a day ago, on Sunday midday, we attended the weekly speech of the Pope at the Bernini Square. The square was full of people but we could spot the Pope in his gown behind the red curtain - praying for the wellbeing of humankind and the pandemic's cure.
The only problem I found with the Vatican Museum is that there are too many things to concentrate on and look all around for, which truly means all around. You have to watch both the walls to your left and right, always full of something. The ceilings are filled with wonderful paintings and even the floors are superbly designed. Some of the floors were designed by the Renaissance master Michelangelo.
The Vatican Museum is well organised in a circular pattern, and direction to two of the main attractions - Sistine Chapel and Raphael Room - is pointed everywhere.
The museum is divided into a few sectors such as the Borgia Apartment, Etruscan collection, Egyptian gallery, Roman art, contemporary art, etc.
At first we keenly inspected a painting by Leonardo da Vinci of St Bartholomew, then we watched a few by Raphael - especially the famous Transfiguration and Caravaggio.
The Egyptian gallery is famous for its collection of Mummies and other artifacts. The Roman gallery is filled with marvelous sculptures, which had us speechless with its perfect details.
However, I was more keen about the animal sculpture gallery, where we saw several life-sized sculptures of different animals. The sculptures were perfectly created. Every strand of hair and expression could be seen clearly on the stone surface. The perfection made it seem as if all these live animals were cursed and turned into stone.
After touring the famous tapestry gallery, we entered the shiny golden gallery of ancient maps, which has the second most photographed ceiling in the Vatican City.
Though this marvelous ceiling consumed most of the visitors' time, the antique maps were equally fascinating.
The invaluable library of the Vatican City cannot be visited unless you have a special permit. This library gained more popularity from the movie Angels and Demons, which was shot here and due to which visitors are more interested about the closed entryway.
And after getting lost in some labyrinth, we entered the Raphael room, which actually belonged to Pope Julius the Second. There are two paintings by Rafaello Santi on the two facing walls but "School of Athens" overshadowed the other one.
This painting was done in such a marvelous way with blue and white sky as the background that one may get the feeling of looking at a piece of open sky instead of the wall.
There, I started spotting Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Euclid, Ptolemy, Herodotus and the young Raphael himself with Hypatia of Alexandria - the only female in this painting, one by one. This has been a supreme sample of art in the western world.
Humanity could have gotten much more from the young Raphael, who was known as the mortal God, if he did not die in 1520 at the age of 37 only.
In the next gallery, we surprisingly discovered a few pieces by Salvador Dali, Francis Bacon, Marc Chagall, Henry Matisse, Botero and a small sculpture of The Thinker of Auguste Rodin. Then we went to the very special room with the most famous ceiling on earth - the Sistine Chapel. This is the room where the Pope is elected and Michelangelo single-handedly covered the ceiling in four years only from 1508 to 1512 with astonishing beauty and perfection.
The events mentioned in the Bible were introduced eventually as God separated light and darkness, created the sun and moon, land and water, then Adam and later Eve, ending with the event of Noah.
God creating Adam is probably the most famous art in western history and their touching figures became an ever-so-popular symbol everywhere, including Nokia. Funnily enough, if you look at God with the angels next to Adam, it looks like a human brain inside the skull.
Thirty years after painting the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo returned to paint the Last Judgement on the 45-feet-high and 40-feet-wide wall and created another masterpiece. This is the first time I saw this place to be this empty and silent. Only around 10 percent of the regular crowd was in the chapel and of course everyone had their masks on.
After hours of art and history, we stopped for a coffee break. But the day was not over. We had to visit the grand St Peter's Cathedral - another one of the Vatican City's marvels.
On our way, we met a few Swiss guards, the security battalion of the pope and de facto military of the Vatican City. Their journey started in 1506 and their colorful costumes were designed by Michelangelo.
From the front of the cathedral we walked through the Bernini square - a masterpiece of another Renaissance master, which was started in 1656 and took 12 years to complete. At the center stands an 84-feet-high obelisk named The Witness, which was brought from Egypt.
This is the second highest obelisk in the world and many historical figures, including the notorious Caligula, are related to its history. The square can make you wonder about the beauty of architecture even today.
There is usually a large crowd in the cathedral, which is the second largest church in the world and has the highest dome with a radius of 463ft and one inch. The Statue of Liberty can stand inside the cathedral easily without touching the ceiling. This is one of master architect Michaelangelo's immortal works.
We wandered inside the Cathedral for an hour. On our way out, we saw another immortal work by Michelangelo - the Pietà. This is the only sculpture on which Michelangelo erected his name on stone. Sadly we cannot see the Pietà up close as it has previously been vandalised in 1972. Since then, it has been put behind a bulletproof glass and stowed away at a safe distance.
The Vatican City is a true wonder. To be there and witness the art, architecture and history has been a grand experience. Even during the pandemic, it has attracted people from all over the world for a lifetime worth of memories to look back on.