Today was my favorite day of the trip so far! We started our day bright and early (leaving at 6:45am!) to take the metro to the Vatican. We had a special appointment with Monsignor Dan Gallagher, a priest who is responsible for transcribing the Pope’s documents into Latin. He is a fellow American from the midwest. We were incredibly lucky to get a private tour of the Apostolic Palace from someone who is a fellow classicist and has such an amazing repertoire of history about the Vatican. On our tour we saw areas typically not open to the public such as the hall of maps, a patio overlooking the Vatican square (which has a great view!) and an ATM that runs in Latin.
Father Gallagher then sat with us in a conference room to talk about his job of transcribing the Pope’s official documents into Latin. The head calligrapher for the Pope also stopped in for a short visit.
During the talk Father Gallagher showed us the seals of Pope Benedict (which had to be defaced upon his retirement.) We also saw original copies of documents written on parchment that were not sent out for one reason or another. Another highlight of the tour of the Vatican was seeing the Swiss guard. Their uniforms were very colorful and looked Medieval.
After the trip to the Vatican we had lunch and went to the Tomb of Augustus and the Ara Pacis. The Altar to Peace was enclosed in a very modern building that was very different from the buildings surrounding it. We debated whether we liked the building or not (some Romans really hate it). Next, we went to the Pantheon, which had been converted into a Catholic Church. Mr. Unger told me that the Barbarini family had removed some of the metal supports from the building to make a bronze roof for another building. There is a witty Latin saying, Quod non fecerunt barbari, fecerunt Barbarini. This translates to, what the barbarians didn’t do (in the destruction of Rome), the Barbarini did.
After the Pantheon we went to the Column of Marcus Aurelius, where Andrew did a presentation. The column is a more emotional account of Marcus Aurelius’s victory. The emotion in the column is due to the fact that Rome almost fell during the wars, and suddenly Rome no longer seemed unstoppable to the Romans.
After the column, we bought gelato from a store with over 150 flavors! Following this we were given free time, and I did some souvenir shopping with Ify.
Finally to end the day we had dinner at a Kosher restaurant. All together an amazing day!