What St. Peter’s looks like when the president of Italy is visiting–we decided not to wait around to see how long he got a private tour. So we went here:

This is the Pantheon. It has the largest masonry dome in Europe at 142 feet. When Michaelangelo designed the dome for St. Peters, he made it 138 feet in deference to the Pantheon. In 608 Emperor Phocas donated the pagan temple to Pope Boniface IV, and doing so ensured that this marvelous Roman building would be preserved and maintained pretty much unaltered as the Christian church, Santa Maria ad Martyres. It is absolutely gorgeous inside. (I still need to get the indoor pics off My Hubby’s computer: his camera does much better on indoor shots than mine.)

Although my camera did come through for me on taking a picture of the dome. The tour book said not to be disappointed if it was raining and go to the Pantheon because the rain fell like a waterfall through the hole in the dome. When we left St. Peters it was raining, but the rain had stopped when we got to the Pantheon, so we didn’t get to see the waterfall.

About three (may be four) blocks from the Pantheon is Largo di Torre Argentina: this is where Julius Caesar was killed on the Ides of March.

Here is St. Peters when the Italian president isn’t visiting. The collonade was designed by Bernini to be outstretched and curving as the arms of the church reaching to embrace the faithful.

The Swiss Guard at St. Peter’s Basilica.