Michelangelo’s Pietà is a marble statue of Mary holding the body of Jesus after the crucifixion. It is one of the most important sculptures from the Renaissance period. Upon entering the Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican, the Pietà is located immediately to the far right of the edifice.
Most of us have already seen pictures of the sculpture in films or photos. I consider myself fortunate enough to know, now that I have seen it with my own eyes, that none of the pictures even come close to doing it justice.
I am not at all a religious person, but I must admit I was moved by the sculpture, and found it difficult to walk away from it. It’s not just the realisation that you are standing in the presence of such a magnificent piece of art, nor the inconceivable talent of Michelangelo’s craftsmanship, or the amazing accuracy and detail of the sculpture that leave you speechless. I think what moved me was the immense look of despair on the face of Jesus, and the solemn, despondent sadness in Mary’s. She sits with her murdered son in her lap. Her left arm is slightly raised, with the palm of her hand facing up, in a gesture that suggests the silent question that all of us ask ourselves when we need to come to terms with loss: why does it have to be this way?
Visitors are free to enter the Basilica without a ticket, as it is still an official place of worship. However, visitors are expected to behave with the necessary decorum befitting such a place. Short shorts, sleeveless tops and a big cleavage are nor permitted – on men or women – and guests will need to cover up before they enter.
Apart from the previously mentioned Pietà and the oppulence of the decorations inside, it is the sheer size of the Basilica that impresses the most. To begin with, you’re not even fully aware of it, until you find your bearings and see just how much the people in the Basilica are dwarfed by the height of the ceiling.