The election of the new pope has drawn the world’s smallest country, the Vatican, back into the limelight. Most visitors to Rome try to see the Vatican during their stay but adherents to the Catholic faith try to make it to the Vatican to see the Pope at least once in their lifetime.
Other places have a religious significance too with the Holy Land a popular pilgrimage destination whilst Santiago de Compostela is probably the second most important destination to European Catholics, being the final resting place of St James and the end of the Way of St James pilgrimage route.
Finally, Lourdes in France is another destination visited by those of the faith, a place of healing and site of an apparition of the Virgin Mary.
But Catholic or otherwise, these places have a lot to offer the visitor:
On your way into the Vatican from Rome itself you’ll be certain to encounter the Swiss Guards who ensure the security of the Pope and his entourage. All visitors head to St Peter’s Square which is actually an ellipse and which fronts St Peter’s Basilica, considered to be the centre of the Catholic world. The Square is where St Peter was martyred by the Emperor Nero. The interior of the Basilica’s dome is so high you could fit the Statue of Liberty in it with room to spare. Other highlights of the Vatican are the Papal Palace which holds the world famous Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museum. You can walk from the Vatican Museum to the Sistine Chapel through dozens of rooms, each as beautiful as the one before and you should allow an hour to walk between the two. See Car Hire Rome
The Holy Land
Jerusalem is an experience in itself but looking more closely at the sights you’ll find the best is the Church of the Holy Sepulchre which stands on the site of Calvary where Jesus was crucified. The Wailing Wall overlooks the Mosque of the Dome of the Rock, one of the holiest sites in Islam. Elsewhere in Jerusalem, see the Garden of Gethsemane, the Mount of Olives and the Garden Tomb.Take a trip out to Bethlehem, now in Palestinian territory, and see the Church of the Nativity. You can even touch the spot where Jesus is said to have been born. See Car Hire Jerusalem
Santiago de Compostela
Arriving there, you’ll no doubt end up in the Praza do Obradoiro which is marked as the end point of the Way of St James. All of the city’s most important buildings are found here, the greatest of which is the cathedral. Under the cathedral is the tomb of St James which, although closed much of the time, is sometimes open for visitors. Several other buildings of note form the perimeter including the Hostal of the Catholic Kings and the Rajoy and Gelmirez Palaces. See Car Hire Santiago de Compostela
Site of the appearance of the Virgin Mary on eighteen occasions to a young girl of the town, St Bernadette, Lourdes has a wonderful Basilica built on the rock above the grotto. The Rosary Basilica is a second basilica consecrated in 1901. The grotto is the holiest site there, where St Bernadette saw the apparition of the Virgin Mary appearing from a cave. The town is famous for its healing waters which are available free of charge – all you need do is supply a container. See Car Hire Lourdes
So, if the potential for a new Pope is awakening the pilgrim in you, check out more details on our destination pages.