Watching Pope Francis speak on a Sunday noon: Vatican City 2


An ocean of human beings had engulfed the Piazza of St. Peters. They came from all walks of life, with all kinds of problems and troubles. Some brandished their national flags; others, their cameras lofted atop long selfie sticks. Some looked around; while most had their eyes glued to the second-last of 10 windows on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace. Eagerly waiting in the glory of the Roman sun, for one man to show up and start speaking.


A man named Jorge Mario Bergoglio, who in another life was a chemist, a janitor and a bar bouncer in Buenos Aires, before he started seminary studies that would lead him to become one of the most revered names in the world.


Pope Francis. The 266th and current pope of the Catholic church

To read: For the time that I visited Pope John Paul II in Dili, Timor Leste. Ok, actually it was his statue.

The path to the Vatican

It had been a pretty hectic trip in Rome so far. I had done most of the touristy stuff (more on that in another post), and had even went dining in a communist Osteria, hidden away from the tourist hordes. And then, I knew it was time to visit another country. The smallest state in the world, in both size and population. And one that was entirely inside Rome.


The ruler of Vatican is the Bishop of Rome. Who, among common folks, is called the Pope. And if there is one absolutely must-do thing to be done in Rome on a Sunday, it is to see the Pope giving his speech.


Getting to the Vatican is easy, from anywhere in Rome. The closest Metro stations would be Ottaviano (on the northern side) and Roma San Pietro (on the southern side). Me and my friend were walking around Rome, so walked there from the Parco del Gianicolo, just 1.5 kms away. And as we reached close to the Piazza San Pietro, we saw the security around the landmark square.



Entrance to piazza st. Peters

Entrance to the Piazza of St. Peters

Vatican security

The vatican security.

It almost looked like I was entering the departure zone of an airport. Well, technically, I was entering an entirely different country, so it kind of made sense. We walked through metal sensors, and my camera bag was scanned and checked. They even took away the almost-empty bottle of deodorant that I had kept in my camera bag. (Don’t judge. Italian summers can be quite humid.)

Behold! The St. Peters Basilica!

But none of that mattered once we entered the St. Peters Piazza. At the center of it all, stood a giant Egyptian obelisk that was 25.5 metres tall, aptly named ‘the witness’, because it is believed to have stood witness to the crucifixion of St. Peter. While the current arrangement of the St. Peter’s piazza was done by the Baroque artist Bernini, he had to work around 2 pieces of art that were already part of the Piazza much before he inherited it. One was ‘the witness’, which incidentally happens to be the second largest standing obelisk in the world. The other was a fountain designed by Maderno behind him.

Egyptian obelisk vatican

The Egyptian obelisk named ‘the witness’ was at the center of the St. Peter’s Piazza.

St. Peter's piazza view

St. Peter’s Piazza, as viewed from the St. Peters Basilica


But the star of the show was neither the obelisk nor the fountain. It was the Papal basilica of St. Peter, commonly called St. Peter’s basilica. Having been designed by multiple brilliant artists over the years – with names including Michelangelo, Bramante, Maderno and Bernini – the basilica was a sight to behold. Unlike what many people incorrectly believe, St. Peter’s basilica is neither the mother church of Christianity (that would be the Church of the Holy Sepuchre in Jerusalem) nor the Cathedral church of Rome (that would be the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran). It isn’t even a cathedral as it does not seat any bishop. But St. Peter’s Basilica still holds a very important place in Christianity as the burial site of St. Peter and one of the four churches in the world that hold the rank of Major Basilica.

The façade of the St. Peters basilica was originally designed by Maderno, and pretty much not many changes have been done to it. Giant Corinthian columns rose up from the ground, to meet the tall attic. Above which stood 12 statues: Jesus and all of his apostles. Well, all except the one who was buried here. St. Peter had a separate statue to the left of the stairs, gracing over everybody who stopped to stare at the magnificient church that carried his name.

St. peters basilica facade

The grand face of the st. Peter’s basilica.


St. Peters statue vatican

St. Peters has his own statue outside the basilica.

Around the St. Peters Piazza, one could catch a glimpse of the many Pontifical Swiss guards who guarded the entrances to the different buildings. The Swiss guards – the only foreign military service that Switzerland allows – is one of the oldest military units in the world. And definitely one of the most colourful too. There is no mistaking their presence, with the brightly coloured uniform that they sport, which carries a distinctive renaissance appearance.


Swiss guards of Vatican

The Swiss guards of Vatican

The Angelus address


It was time for the angelus address, and the atmosphere was charged with electricity as everybody looked up to the apostolic palace. Every Sunday, at noon, the pope spoke from his window at the apostolic palace, overlooking the crowds present at St. Peter’s square. It looked almost like there was a festival underway – except that this festival happened every week.


Crowds had gathered from every part of the world. Some held out their national flags, to show where they were from. Some tour groups had come with large banners, like a Philharmonic group that was making themselves seen – and heard – before the address. And there were even a group of Venezuelans who had come to ask the Pope for help with the ongoing Venezuelan crisis.

Apostolic palace of pope

The apostolic palace where the pope gives his address.

People at st. peters basilica

People gathered for the angelus address.

venezuelans at vatican

The group of Venezuelans who had come to share their plight with the group.


And suddenly, there were screams all around. Pope Francis finally showed up on the window of the apostolic palace! People screamed and cried. I could barely get a clear view of the pope from this distance, but there were a couple of giant TV screens in the Piazza of St. Peter which made it easy to observe him.


I don’t speak a single word of Italian. And I did not understand a single thing that Pope Francis said. But the only thing I know, was that this guy has one of the most soothing voices I have ever heard! It was so magical, that I had to record a video of him speaking.

Pope sunday speech

When the Pope finally spoke from his window.

Some more instagram posts from that day.




This post is part of my Italy travelogues. Click here to check out other amazing travel stories from Italy.

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About Abhi Surendran

Abhi quit his corporate job, and decided to immerse himself in travels, photography, occasional periods of bankruptcy, and copious amounts of insanity. He is currently working on a book of his experiences, and a dream road trip through South Asia. Both in a haphazard fashion. He blogs at Iamnothome and you can also catch him at times on Facebook and twitter.

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