In search of a photograph of the Stefaneschi Triptych I travelled to Rome. The painting is housed in the Pinacoteca Vaticana. I paid for a guided tour of the Vatican Museums which picked me up from Rom Termini, circumvented the long waiting lines and got me inside. The Vatican Museums are well worth a visit and even though it was off season, the main museums were overcrowded.
I soon learnt that the Pinacoteca Vaticana was not part of the guided tour. The tour guide let me know that I needed to break away from the tour after the Sistine Chapel and head my own way. The Pinacoteca was empty. I soon found the painting I was after, the Stefaneschi Triptych by Giotto. The triptych or altarpiece for the old St Peter’s Basilica is painted on both sides, so the front can be seen by the congregation and the back by the priests. Shown below is the back panel.
My interest lay in the far left panel which depicts the crucifixion of St Peter and the crowd of onlookers is dominated by four horsemen believed to represent the four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
The dress of the four horsemen is also curious. One horseman is dressed as a mongol general and the horseman alongside the mongol dressed in the red garb of a cardinal of the Albigensian Crusade. The Devil’s Prayer identifies these two horsemen as Arnuad Amalric, the Grand Inquisitor of the first Papal Inquisition and the mongol general Jebe Noyan.
I left the Pinacoteca to make my way to the Basilica’s crypt located in the lower level of St Peter’s and known as the Tombe dei Papi, or Tomb of the Popes. It was rumoured that the Basilica’s crypt has room for only two more popes to be laid to rest, including Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis. It was just after 5pm pm Maundy Thursday and unfortunately the Tomb of the Popes was no longer open to the public.
I decided to make the most of my visit and take a few photos as the impressive church which was relatively empty.
A large portion of the front of the church including the altar was cordoned off. The seats placed in this section was occupied by nuns and priests.
Shortly thereafter, the divine sounds of a choir filled the church. I soon realised that Holy Mass was being celebrated and as many of the tourists had gathered around the barriers looking intently at the altar which was some 40 metres away. The altar was packed and through the zoom lens of a photographer, I was almost certain that the mass was being celebrated by the Pope.
After the mass, a procession with the Pope under the papal tent moved to the Sacristy located in the right wing of the church shown below.
After fifteen minutes of prayer, the cardinals led the pope out of the Vatican.
Around midnight, I returned to the Vatican to get a picture of St Peter’s Basilica without the crowds.
In Search of ‘The Devil’s Prayer’
In 2013 and 2016, I visited Rome whilst conducting research for my book, The Devil’s Prayer.
My second trip was solely to get images to promote the film script which this book was based on. The Stefaneschi Triptych in the Pinacoteca Vatican, the medallions of the Pope’s on the walls of St Paul’s Outside the Walls, the Tomb of the Popes and the Vatican Library all feature in the book. The Devil’s Prayer is available world-wide on amazon, ibooks, google play and kobo.
Contrary to popular belief, the best time to visit the Vatican and Rome is during the Holy Week. It was relatively empty and cheap. I would strongly recommend getting a hotel near Rome Termini if you want to avail of the public transport system. Getting around Rome was very easy and I also needed to visit Assisi during this trip. There is also a train which goes every half hour to Fumicano Airport. Rome Termini as can be expected is close to all the tourist hop on hop off buses plus the local bus transport system. I stayed at the Hotel Mercure opposite the Colosseum on my first visit and the Hotel Archimede near Rome Termini on my second. Both were great value for money.