Fortunately for us, the lines to get into the basilica moved more efficiently than we might have expected from their length (half-way around St. Peter's square). We learned later that security was a bit too efficient, as friends told us stories of "accidentally" getting through security with all kinds of contraband! The 40 minute wait provided Jolene time to bone-up on her Italian. (The words we already knew -- ciao, spaghetti, amore -- were not quite as useful as we'd hoped. "Gelatto", however, turned out to be a fix-all word for Case!)
The interior of St. Peter's is so vast that one loses perspective. See the bronze-brown canopy over the altar? It is as tall as a 7-storey building.
Michelangelo's Pieta is the only work he ever signed. After overhearing someone credit another artist for his work, he carved "Michelangelo Buonarroti, Florentine, made it" into the Virgin's sash. He later regretted this outburst of pride and swore to never sign another work of his hands. He never did.
We heard similar stories of the artists' piety and conviction as we admired their work all around Italy. In an age when movies like Amadeus & The Da Vinci Code portray creative genius as an anomaly arising in otherwise profane and heretical minds, it is good to be reminded that some, at least, wrote, sculpted, or painted what they truly loved. (c.f. Michelangelo, Bach, & Botticelli)
As most will recall, the pieta now stands behind bullet-proof glass due to a 1972 incident when a deranged geologist attacked it with a hammer, smashing Mary's nose. We noted a lot of security measures attached to the paintings and sculptures, though much was made less obtrusive by using ultrasound sensors, etc.
A view, from the cupola, over the roof of the basilica to St. Peter's "square".