Our second to last day has us wanting to slow down time here in Rome.
This morning, we woke at 8 a.m. to get out to the Vatican Museum for our first tour of the day. We explored the museum with our guide, Sandro Pelligrini, and ended with a trip through the sacred halls of the Sistine Chapel. A place with so many artifacts (even some that were missing or "borrowed" from the sites we saw in Greece and Turkey!) kept all of our camera shutters busy as we meandered through the halls among the masses of tourists who travel to the Vatican City each year. There's something that only half of 1% of those visitors get to do, however. That's 0.5%, for those math whizzes out there. The Scavi.
The Scavi is an excavation of ancient ruins that is two floors underneath St. Peter's Basilica, which is located adjacent to the Vatican Museum. It was discovered during WWII, and was excavated in secret to be kept from Hitler's knowledge. Today, it is open to select people (usually seminary students) to tour and actually see the area where St. Peter would have been buried, and also the place where they found what they have deduced are St. Peter's bones. An extremely powerful and once-in-a-lifetime experience, our students all spoke of how valuable the tour of the Scavi was to them -- so be sure to ask about it when they get home!
After the Scavi, we had some time to walk through St. Peter's Basilica, one of the largest and most beautiful churches in the world, including La Pieta (seen below). There was even a 5 o'clock Catholic mass taking place in the basilica while we were there, which made the place come alive even more.
Tonight we took the metro back to the hotel, and we explored the area near our hotel with our small groups to find dinner (and gelato, of course). Tomorrow morning we plan to have another full day before returning home. We will tour the Roman forum, the Colosseum, Constantine's Arch, the Pantheon, and culminate with a visit after lunch to St. Paul's Basilica outside the walls of the city.
As we head into our last day of our touring together, please pray for endurance and strength along the way. We are all extremely exhausted, yet our spirits are just as high as ever and we're feeling so blessed for this opportunity. Please pray for us as we start to reflect on the amazing things we have experienced and seen, much of it we will continue to fully learn from weeks, months, and even years from now.