I tried to get reservation for the Vatican Museum, but was unable to complete transaction on the website with the credit card I have. So I decided I would just get in line early the next morning (January 6). Surely there will be some walk-in spots for people arriving early and patient enough to wait in line?
I got off the metro by 07:40 and found the eastern wall of Vatican in short order. As I was walking towards the entrance to the museum, I saw a sign posting museum hours. Wait, what’s the meaning of green colors for Friday January 6? Closed for special event!
Back towards the south gate for Vatican I went. Might as well get something out of my early arrival and be among the first group to see the St. Peters Basilica then. There were already a lot of people waiting at the perimeter of the St. Peters square. I think I was probably about number 150. There was not really a line, but a huddle, for the queue is so wide that 10 people can easily stand shoulder to shoulder on that side walk. When they started letting people in through security check, a big guy a few rows front of me stood to the unoccupied portion of sidewalk, shook his head and waved his index finger disapprovingly at people trying to cutting in from the side. Nice!
After I got through security check, I did not run into the Basilica like everyone else. I snapped an image of the Church from the square before I leisurely rejoined masses going into the Basilica.
I was handed a booklet at the door, the nave was filled with rows of cheap folding chairs, and people were running for seats next to the aisle. I have unwittingly joined a special mass for Epiphany Friday!
I grabbed a seat 3rd from the center aisle near the middle of nave. Seats towards the front were either too far from the center aisle, or were already taken by people that came here on a mission. By 0900 we have fill the church with anxious crowd and the mass did not start for another hour.
I followed along the entire service with English translation in the booklet. It was a very nice booklet showing both English and Italian translations alongside original Latin text where bishop read text in Latin.
The Italian couple next to me were very nice. They did not leave me in the cold when we were to greet neighbors in the congregation. They even asked me to take their place next to the center rail so I may have unobstructed view of the procession at the conclusion of the service. With their generosity, I was able to get clean images of Pope Francis, other bishops, and the swiss guard.
Needless to say, my Catholic friends were somewhat jealous of my dumb luck when I told them of my adventure and showed them these and other images from this special day. I hope I did them proud by attending the mass in good faith, even though I was there for cultural, not religious reasons.