Rome has been named by some as "The Eternal City," an ode to the abundance of history in the ancient city. Of course, no one on the bus had truly been able to grasp the truth of this statement until we actually arrived in Rome.
The group woke up at the grand old time of 5:00am. As you can imagine, we had many tired pilgrims in our hotel. Fortunately, however, we were given the chance to grab a quick coffee to give us a caffeine boost to get us through the morning.
After our coffee break, we headed into the Vatican City. We lined up to enter the sovereign state, and a tedious security check ensued for each of us; but we eventually finished and were given the green light to enter the Holy See.
The grandeur of St. Peter's Basilica truly left the pilgrims astounded. Many stood in awe at its façade. Others got their phones and cameras out to capture their memories forever. Most did both.
We proceeded to make our way into St. Peter's Basilica and had a very brief look at its splendour before being ushered off to our mass.
The mass will truly be something that I, along with many of the other pilgrims, will find very hard to forget. The Australian pilgrims who had journeyed through Italy celebrated the Eucharist with Cardinal Pell, the former archbishop of Sydney and now, Manager of Finances at the Vatican.
After our mass, we quickly left the Vatican and got back on the bus to make our way to the more ancient sections of Rome. We met our tour guide, who showed us around Ancient Rome's icons such as the Colosseum and the Roman Forum. After our look at these locations, we made our way to a Jesuit church in Rome, which boasted beautiful frescos along with a relic of St. Francis Xavier - his preserved forearm.
We were led back to the Vatican, and re-entered through the museum section. We saw Ancient Roman and Greek statues in the Vatican's halls, most notably the Ephesian Artemis, which was a statue previously housed at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the seven ancient wonders of the world, now in modern day Turkey (and in ruins.)
However, these statues were nothing compared to what was to come. The Sistine Chapel was but a few halls away. To see something so famous was truly a treat. The beautiful artwork by Renaissance artist Michelangelo was absolutely amazing, most notably his most famous piece in the chapel, "The Creation of Adam."
After our visit to the Sistine Chapel, we were once again led through St. Peter's, in order to have a better look at its artefacts and learn some more about its history.
As the day drew closer to an end, we were each given an ultimatum. We could either sit down and relax our legs, or we could go downstairs and have a look at the crypts. It was a hard decision in truth, as many of our legs were very tired after a long day; but myself, along with a considerably large portion of the pilgrims from Bus 11, made the decision to experience all that St. Peter's had to offer.
The crypt was a walk through history. We saw previous pope's burial places and being read information on their individual contribution to the church.
The crypt brought our day to a close, and although it was a very rewarding day, we, as a whole, are extremely tired. Exhausted even. Let's just say that we are ready for a good night's sleep.