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Sanctuary Of Our Lady Of Lourdes

Canal Du Midi

Introduction  
 
Canal du Midi in Toulouse, France, was built in the 17th century. It also has the distinction of being the world's oldest working canal. It is also counted as one of France's engineering marvels. Because of its significance to the engineering world, as well as to the history and culture of France, the canal was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999. 
 
It is essentially divided into two parts – the 211 kilometer-long Royal Languedoc Canal, which spans Marseille and Toulouse and the 200 kilometer-long Garonne Lateral Canal, which spans the length from Toulouse up to Castets-en-Dorthe. The entire canal is now called Canal du Midi. It was previously called the Canal des Deux Mers (which is French means "Canal of two seas") as this connects the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
 
Talk about building the canal has existed for quite some time, as people felt the need for a shortcut between the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. This would save not only on the length of time one has to sail (cutting the distance traveled to a mere tenth), but also avoid having to pass the hostile waters of Spain as well as the Barbary pirates plying the waters. The concept of a canal harked back to as early as the time of Roman emperor Nero. Other monarchs including Emperor Augustus, Charlemagne, Charles IX and Henri IV thought about it.
 
It was only during Pierre-Paul Riquet's time that the talk became reality. With amazing engineering ingenuity, he figured out a way to properly channel the water by building a massive dam at Saint Ferreol. This dam was the very first reservoir that was used to feed the waterways of a canal. In all, the construction of the canal, which was a grand endeavor, took close to 12,000 laborers. It also took around 27 years to finish, with construction starting in 1667 and ended in 1694.
 
Today, the Canal is a popular attraction, with a number of places that you should visit. Be sure to write Beziers, Ventenac en Minervois, Carcassonne, Fonseranes, Oppidum de Enserune and Sete in your list of places to visit when you are in Toulouse. Of course, the Canal also passes through Toulouse, with its magnificent attractions such as the St. Sernin's Basilica, the Capitol square and the 13th century Dominican monastery. At Naurouze Pass, you can find a memorial to Rique, the Obelisque de Rique. The pass is also the highest point in the canal. Nearby you can enjoy the amenities of Port-Lauragais, which has a modern marina. Then, drop by Castelnaudary, which has pottery shops that have been doing business over the centuries. At Homps, visit the wine museum as well as the castle of the Maltesse Knights.
 
The Canal is great if you want to indulge in boating and fishing expeditions with friends. Along the canal, there are tree-lined paths for jogging and cycling. The Canal du Midi is a place of serenity and calm, it is where you can relax and hang out to breathe in the fresh air and to escape from the harried busyness of city life.
France

Saint Sernin Basilica

Introduction  
 
Toulouse, France is home to the Saint Sernin Basilica, which is among the grandest, largest and most fabulous in the Western World. Its magnificent splendor never fails to draw "oohs and aahs" from those who are blessed to visit it. Saint Sernin Basilica's sheer size and utter architectural beauty are qualities that have that irresistible ability to draw people into itself. You cannot simply resist coming in for a visit.
 
Some parts, such as the choir, was built as early as the late 11th century. However, the basilica itself was completed during the 13th century. Sadly, it fell into ruins until Viollet-le-Duc had it restored during the 19th century. But these "renovations" are also undergoing renovations at the moment, as the desire is to restore the basilica to its original appearance.
 
The Saint Sernin Basilica was built in honor of Saturnin, who is the city's first bishop. In fact, the basilica was constructed on the very site where the revered St. Saturnin (also called Sernin) was buried. It harks back to the 11th century and is an imposing brick structure with rows of Roman arches, an octagonal bell-tower, three-aisled transepts and a five-aisled nave. 
 
The basilica is different from other basilicas of its time. Whereas most basilicas are made of stone, St. Sernin is made mostly of brick. It also features a cross-shaped structure, with vaulted ceilings. There is also a walkway that encircles the side aisles and the nave. There are also a number of chapels that surround the main area.
 
What's more, the basilica features a very impressive tower which has six stories that soon became the model for such structures in Gaston and Languedoc. Enter through its grand doorways, the grandest of which is in the south aisle, namely the Porte Ridgeville. This area features Romanesque sculpture of the Apostle, King David and the scene of the Ascension. 
 
Another fascinating portal is the Porte des Comets, which has capitals that show the torments of the damned, as well as the scene involving Lazarus and the rich man. To the left of the portal, you will find sarcophagi of the different counts of Toulouse.
 
Inside the basilica, you are literally imbibed with feelings of peace and harmony. How can you not feel serene in such magnificent surroundings? Feast your eyes on the magnificent choir which is surrounded by nine chapels. The adornments are predominantly Baroque in inspiration. There is a scene depicting the martyrdom of St. Sernin. Also, you will find a high marble altar right above St. Sermon's crypt. 
 
Charlemagne gave the basilica some of its major relics. These relics are mainly kept inside the crypt. It is said that there are relics of some 128 saints housed in the crypts, this includes a thorn that used to belong to the "Crown of Thorns" Jesus wore during his crucifixion. There is also a magnificent 1888 Cavaille-Coll organ, which is considered as one of France's most important organs. Be sure to view the bas-reliefs, especially the ones that depict Christ in His Majesty, a grand work that harks back to the 11th century.
 
The Basilica is a very important stage in the pilgrimage known as the Saint-Jacques-de-Compostelle. It is also undoubtedly one of the finest pilgrimages churches. The Basilica of Saint Sernin is equally majestic, imposing and an unforgettable sight. 
 
You may visit the basilica everyday although sightseeing is not allowed during masses held on Sunday mornings.
Toulouse, France

St. Peter's Basilica

Introduction  
 
Saint Peter's Basilica in Vatican City, surrounded by the city of Rome, is a sight that delights the eye and captures wonder and beauty from every angle. With a dome that may have helped to inspire Saint Paul's Cathedral in London among others, Saint Peter's rises over Vatican City like a shining star. 
 
The Saint Peter's Basilica, also known as the Basilica of Saint Peter, is the foremost place of worship of His Holiness, the Pope, who is the religious leader of the Catholic people. Public religious ceremonies officiated by the Pope are often performed within the Cathedral. This is primarily due to the size of the Cathedral, which can hold about 60,000 people, as well as the proximity of the Cathedral to the Papal Residence within Vatican City.
 
The Saint in question was Peter, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus Christ, first Bishop of Antioch, and later first Bishop of Rome. Legend has it that Saint Peter himself is buried under the altar stone, although there are no biblical references to Peter having been in Rome or having been martyred there. Nonetheless, many of the popes that followed him have chosen to be buried in the Cathedral as well, laying themselves to rest near his holy bones. 
 
To be more exact, there are 91 popes buried beneath the basilica, Pope John Paul II, who died in 2005, being the most recent interment. The most famous woman entombed in the Cathedral is Christina of Sweden, who abdicated her throne to convert to the Catholic faith. Queen Christina is one of only four women who have been given the honor of being buried within the cathedral, and is buried near the English Royal Stuarts who also lost their thrones because of their Catholicism. 
 
The construction of the Basilica of Saint Peter began on April 18, 1506, and it was not completed until over 100 years later in 1626. It was built up over the Constantinian basilica that was there before. The altar of the Cathedral supposedly holds a relic of the Cathedra Petri, the episcopal throne of Saint Peter himself from when he led the Roman church. The piece of cathedra (meaning "chair") is supposed to have been contained within the altarpiece designed by Bernini. 
 
Michelangelo was one of the chief architects who worked on Saint Peter's Cathedral, among other famous and brilliant architects. Michelangelo's design called for a spherical dome, which was an improvement over his predecessor's design. After his death in 1564, however, another architect redesigned the dome and built it with the help of Domenico Fontana, the best engineer of the day. The dome is actually a double dome, and is made of brick. Visitors can climb the spiral stairs within the dome and look out over Vatican City. The inner diameter of the dome is 138.8 feet, which makes it almost as large as the Roman Pantheon. The dome rises 394 feet above the floor of the Cathedral. Visitors climbing the dome might notice four iron chains around the inner dome. These were placed there in the mid-18th century to stop cracks that were appearing in the inner dome. The chains are supposed to bind the dome like rings on a barrel. 
 
Everything about the basilica seems larger than life including the grandiose interior of the Cathedral itself, Michelangelo's sculpture, Pietà, being only one of these. Statues look down on you from everywhere within the Cathedral representing various saints and Popes. There are several chapels and many altars in addition to the main altar. The Basilica of Saint Peter is an amazing place to see if you are in Rome, and a good reason to come to Rome if you are not
Rome, Italy

St. Peter's Square

Introduction  
 
You are standing in a courtyard, surrounded by hundreds of other people who are equally awed by the majesty of the sights that you are all seeing. Before you, over 400 feet tall and almost 400 years old, rises the magnificent Saint Peter's Cathedral. As you turn to glance about the elliptical colonnade in wonder, you are greeted with the sight of hundreds of pillars holding up the ancient Baroque architecture. When your eyes reach the center of the square, you are greeted by the sight of an ancient Egyptian obelisk, dating back to the 13th century BC. To either side of the obelisk are fountains, and beyond it the road leading into the square. You are standing in Saint Peter's Square in Vatican City within Rome. 
 
The architecture of Saint Peter's Square was designed to be awe inspiring, leading, as it does, up to the great Saint Peter's Cathedral (or the Basilica of Saint Peter). The design was by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, and the Square was built over time from 1656 to 1667 by order of Pope Alexander VII. The Pope wanted as many people as possible to be able to see him give his blessing from the Cathedral or from a window in the Vatican Palace. Bernini, who had worked on the interior of the Cathedral for decades, now designed the approach to be as awe inspiring as possible. 
 
The site presented a challenge for Bernini, with the Vatican Palace crowding in on the Cathedral and the obelisk and one fountain already placed in the existing Piazza before the Cathedral. Bernini had to mask the Vatican Palace without obscuring the Papal apartments, and was forced to work the existing elements into his design. The solution he came up with was brilliant, using the obelisk as the centerpiece of the Square and the existing fountain as the foci of the oval that was created by his massive colonnades. He created a second fountain in the interest of symmetry, which was completed in 1675, just five years before his death.
 
The Doric colonnades are four columns deep, and frame the entrance to the Cathedral of Saint Peter. Bernini was supposed to have described his colonnades as "the maternal arms of Mother Church", gathering the flock up toward the Cathedral itself. At the center of the oval still stands the Egyptian obelisk, moved to Rome in AD 37 by Emperor Caligula. 
 
The Vatican Obelisk was moved from a nearby square to the Saint Peter's Square in 1586 by the great engineer, Domenico Fontana under orders from Pope Sixtus V. Re-erecting the obelisk in the square required considerable effort due to the vast weight of it, and the erection was memorialized in collection of engravings. The Vatican Obelisk is the only obelisk in Rome that has not toppled in the time since Roman rule. During the process of the movement and re-erection, Fontana removed the ancient metal ball which had been atop the obelisk and which was rumored to contain the ashes of Julius Caesar, but found only dust within. The ball is on display in a Rome museum. 
 
The spina that once occupied the Grand Avenue leading up to the Square was demolished by Mussolini over the course of a year, being completed in October of 1937. Saint Peter's Cathedral is now visible all the way from the Castel Sant Angelo. The approach may have lost the sense of surprise with this demolition, but neither the Square nor the Cathedral of Saint Peter have lost their majesty and awe-inspiring qualities. Standing in the Square is like paying homage to the great architects and engineers of our past.
Rome, Italy

Doge's Palace

Introduction   
 
 
One of the biggest attractions in Venice is the spectacular Doge's Palace, also known as the Palazzo Ducale. Much of the present building dates from the 15th century – although an earlier building on the spot may date back to the 9th century - and has been rebuilt and added on to several times. The building was constructed in a dazzling pink and white marble design and has been described - fairly accurately - as an oversized wedding cake.
 
The Doge's Palace was the residence of the Doge – or chief magistrate – until the fall of the Venetian Empire in 1797. The building still occupies a prime location in Venice – situated between the lagoon and the small square known as the Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square). One reason for its strategic location was to impress visitors who arrived in the city by sea.
 
The entire palace is ornately decorated although there are several rooms in the palace that shouldn't be missed. Perhaps the most well known and spectacular room in the entire building is the huge Grand Council Chamber – in which over 2000 people routinely used to meet at one time. 
 
The Council Chamber contains many paintings on the walls including portraits of the 76 Doges that have ruled Venice over the years. One of the portraits is that of the Doge Marin Faliero who was accused of treason and beheaded in 1355. To this day, his portrait is still covered with a black cloth.
 
The Council Chambers are filled with many other paintings but one of the most spectacular is a vast painting called Paradise by the artist Tintoretto – supposedly the world's largest oil canvas. Tintoretto was in his 70s when he created the painting – an amazing achievement.
 
Of the other rooms at the palace, also worth seeing is the Senate Chamber. In this room, the Senate who consisted of a select group of 200 men, regularly met to pass laws. Another masterpiece by Tintoretto can be found in this room – The Triumph of Venice, painted on the ceiling.
 
Even the entrance to the Doge's Palace is impressive. The Giant's Staircase, as it is known, was designed by Sansovino and leads from the courtyard to the main palace entrance and was only used by the Doges – never by ordinary citizens. The Giant's Staircase is so called because of the two huge statues of Neptune and Mars situated at the top of the stairs – symbolizing the state's control over both sea and land.
 
Almost as well known as the palace itself is the romantically named Bridge of Sighs, which may just be Venice's best known and most photographed bridge. The bridge links the palace to the nearby prison, and the name was supposedly coined by Casanova, who imagined the condemned prisoners taking their last breath while they crossed the bridge.
 
Casanova himself was perhaps the most famous prisoner at the Doge's Palace – he was imprisoned there for purportedly being a freemason and publishing anti religious material. You can still see the cell that the infamous womanizer spent his time in. 
 
Casanova – among his other claims to fame – was also the only person to escape from the prison, by prying up the floorboards in his cell. He then managed to flee from Venice by sea – supposedly having time to stop for a cup of coffee in St Marks Square on the way.
 
The Doge's Palace can be toured individually. But one of the best ways to see the palace is to take the Secret Itineraries guided tour. This acclaimed tour takes visitors behind the scenes and shows many of the secrets of the enormous building – secret rooms, hidden passageways and the torture chamber.
 
Venice has many great monuments and museums. But a visit to the Doge's Palace will give you a memorable insight into the very people who ruled Venice for so long and had so much influence over its destiny.
Venice, Italy

Pompeii

Introduction   
 
 
Pompeii points you back to Italy's glorious past – destroyed by the ravages of nature and time, but still a wonder and beauty in its own right. It is, in fact, one of Italy's top tourist draws. This UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site was nearly lost to us except for its rediscovery (albeit by accident) in 1748. Excavations show a great city at the height of the grandeur that was Rome. A visit to Pompeii will give you a renewed appreciation of how the people lived at the height of the Roman Empire.
 
Pompeii is nestled at the base of Pompeii, near Naples, in Campania. The city only reached its heyday when it became the playground of the wealthy during its time. However, Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 A.D. and completely concealed the city under ash and pumice. Layers upon layers of rubble kept the ancient city covered for some two thousand years. Because of the suddenness of the event, the city is remarkably well-preserved. This is accounted for by the lack of moisture and air that kept deterioration at a bare minimum. 
 
Here, you will see villas, baths, houses and the Forum frozen in time and kept exactly the way it was during the 1st century. It is a delight to explore, as it provides amazing detail of everyday Roman life. This includes jars, frescos, wine bottles, tables and many others. It shows a city that is progressive and modern for its time. It had an aqueduct that provided water for over 20 fountains and public baths, businesses and houses. 
 
Make it a point to survey the other public buildings, foremost of which is the Forum or market. This is surrounded by three other buildings – the central basilica (which was built in honor of Madonna del Rosario di Pompeii), the Temple of Jupiter and the Temple of Apollo. The basilica is the largest building in the city. The public baths were also excellently preserved. There are graffiti on the walls that show that the young people then are no different from the young people now. If you are a history buff, this is an excellent place to visit. The Via dei Sepolcri, a long street, spans several blocks of the city and has ruts for carriages.
 
One of the best-preserved houses in the area is the House of the Vettii. You will surely enjoy exploring this house with its semi-erotic frescoes, paintings and gardens. The most prominent frescoes in the house include the cupids found in the red-and-black dining room. There is also the House of the Mysteries (which has frescoes that are related to Bacchus, the god of wine) and the House of the Faun (named as such because of a statue of a faun). The House of the Faun also used to feature the mosaic of the Battle of Alexander the Great. However, this piece has been moved to the Museo Archeologico Nazionale in Naples. Other attractions include the Lupanare (brothel), the House of the Tragic Poet, the House of the Gilded Cupids and the Great Theater (which is an open-air auditorium with a capacity of 5,000).
 
Make a journey of discovery to the golden era of Rome and see how the other historic half lived. Pompeii is a city well-loved because of the historical gems waiting for you.
Italy

Roman Catacombs

Introduction  
 
The catacombs around Rome are places that always fascinated visitors. Going back to the first century, Christian Romans did not have their place to burry their dead. Until Christianity's acceptance, the Ancient Romans forbade, nor offered a piece of land for Christians to bury bodies in Rome. So before the catacombs, Christian and Jewish had to resort to other pagan common cemeteries. Saint Peter was buried on one on Vatican Hill in the great public "city of the dead" (know as "Necropolis") and Saint Paul was buried in one along the Via Ostience.
 
In the second century, Christian were granted small pieces land outside of Rome's precincts and started creating subterranean burial places. It became more practical and less costly for Christians to develop underground cemetery complexes than buying open-air properties.
 
There were about sixty catacombs near Rome mostly along the Appian Way. The ancient Roman catacombs usually started with family tombs but the newly converted Christians did not reserve places and were open for other "brothers and sisters" in faith to be buried around the same tombs.
 
By the purchase of new land and by gifts, the catacombs eventually expanded to be impressive subterranean complexes of the dead. Sometimes a catacomb cemetery was directly managed by the new emerging Church itself for community purposes. The Saint Callistus (Callixtus) catacomb was a good example were they also put into ground the first Roman bishops and created a Crypt of the Popes.
 
The persecution of the early Christians were not always equally cruel and universal. There were some higher times of persecution followed by calmer peaceful periods. During the difficult times, the catacombs were sometime used as a temporary place to celebrate the Christian Mass and the Eucharist. However, they were not used as secret hiding places like seen in movies and novels.
 
In 313 A.D. finally came the edict of Milan ratified by the emperors Constantine and Licinius which gave freedom to the Church. So the Christians became free to have places of worship, build churches inside and outside of Rome and profess their faith. They could also buy properties without the fear to have these confiscated. The catacombs then became pilgrimage centers and shrines of the martyrs into all parts of the Empire.
 
The catacombs were still used as normal cemeteries until the 5th century. Then the Church started to create basilicas for saints and martyrs and buried the dead mostly above the ground.
 
Around the 8th to 9th century, because of repeated pillage by the Goths and Lombards barbarians, the Popes ordered to take out the relics from the catacombs to place them in more secure places inside the city's churches. The catacombs then were mostly abandoned to the exception of the Saint Pancratius and Saint Lawrence ones. Over time, vegetation and landslides blocked the entrance to many catacombs and were mostly forgotten throughout the Middle Ages.
 
It is only later, in the beginning of the 17th century, that scientific studies of the catacombs, led by Antonio Bosio started. He was named the "Columbus (discoverer) of the underground / subterranean Rome. Then in the 19th century was made more systematic exploration of the catacombs by Giovanni de Rossi who brought to light the wonders of the Saint Callistus (Callixtus) catacomb in particular. Giovanni de Rossi is known to be the founder and father of Christian Archaeology.
 
About Visiting the Catacombs of Rome
Priscilla, St. Agnes, St. Callixtus, St. Sebastian, and Domitilla are the five catacombs that are normaly open to the public. They are open all year, except on New Year's day, Easter and Christmas. All catacomb are closed for one day per week and for one month during winter.
Rome, Italy

St. Mark's Square

Introduction  
 
The emperor Napoleon supposedly described it as "the finest drawing room in all of Europe" and if you visit St. Mark's Square in Venice, it's easy to agree with him. The square, known locally as Piazza San Marco – dedicated to the city's patron saint - is one of the most beautiful public squares in Europe.
 
St. Mark's is also one of the few large squares that are given over just to pedestrians, rather than vehicles. It's the only square in Venice known as a piazza – the other squares are technically called campi.
 
The square has always been the location of most of the important offices of the Venetian state and a natural place for marches, parades and festivals of all kinds. Today, many of the city's most important buildings still lie on or close to St. Mark's – the Doge's Palace, St. Mark's Basilica and clock tower, the offices of the procurators and the Museum of Archeology. 
 
The square was first laid out in the 11th century when a canal was cut through the area and then later filled in creating the shape that remains today. St. Mark's Square is actually not a true square – one side is a little bit longer than the opposite side, an effect which makes the square seem even larger when viewed from certain angles.
 
St Mark's was renovated during the 16th and 17th centuries, when new stones with a geometric pattern replaced the old bricks. The patterns in the new bricks also added to the illusion of depth and were probably also used to mark the location of trader's stalls. In the late 19th century, the pavement was refurbished again.
 
The square is considered to be the unofficial center of tourist Venice. Many of the best hotels, shops and restaurants can be found around St. Mark's square and there is a gondola stop a short walk away. It's a popular place for tour groups and guided walks to meet.
 
Stylish cafes and restaurants line both sides of the square occupying the lower floors of the buildings, with their tables spilling outdoors in warmer weather. The square boasts some famous cafes – the Caffé Florian which first opened in 1720, was the haunt of many famous writers and artists including Lord Byron and Henry James. 
 
When Austrian troops occupied the city during the early 19th century, they would regularly drink Turkish coffee at the Caffe Quadri. And on a warm summer evening, there is little more pleasurable than sitting at one of the cafes that feature a string quartet for entertainment. Expect to pay a cover charge just to sit down at some of these cafes.
 
And apart from all those other tourists, you will also share St. Mark's Square with thousands of pigeons. It's actually difficult to walk through the square without being attacked by the determined birds. And who can resist buying a packet of seed to feed the birds, from one of the many vendors? Most people end up with the obligatory photograph of themselves fending off pigeons.
 
The smaller square between the lagoon and St. Mark's Square is called the Piazetta San Marco and was originally laid out in the 9th century and was once used for public executions. Today, a statue of the lion of St. Mark – one of the city's symbols - watches over the crowds from atop a column.
 
St. Mark's Square is beautiful at any time of the day. Many people choose to visit in the morning when the crowds are not as thick. In fall or winter, St. Marks Square and the surrounding canals take on a misty, almost eerie quality. 
 
And you may time your visit to be in Venice when the city experiences one of its regular floods. St Marks Square is the lowest point in the city and particularly prone to flooding and if that happens, you may have to make your way through the square by stepping on wooden boards laid down.
 
But whatever time of day or year you visit, you will agree that St. Mark's Square is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful squares – in one of the most beautiful cities - in the world.
Venice, Italy

Medici Chapels

Introduction  
 
The "Capelle Medicee" are part of the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze in Florence, Italy. The exterior of the chapel and the basilica are unprepossessing—the façade has never been completed. Inside, however, the beauty of both the basilica and the chapel is undeniable. The basilica is one of the largest churches in Florence, and is located at the heart of the city's largest market district.
 
The Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze was consecrated in the year 393, and for three hundred years was the city's cathedral, serving as the seat of the Florentine Bishop and the central church of the diocese of Florence. The basilica was also the parish church of the Medici family, one of the most powerful and influential families in Florence between the thirteenth and seventeenth centuries. No less than three Popes were members of the Medici family, as well as several of Florence's rulers, and members of English and French Royalty.
 
The Medici family is also famous for their cultural influences, and are noted for having helped usher in the Italian Renaissance, a period of history in which art, music, and other cultural elements of society flourished. The history of Florence, the basilica, and the Medici family are therefore closely intertwined. The Medici Chapel (or Chapels) are a testament to the close nature of this relationship.
 
The interior of the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze is decorated in the Renaissance style—it is a vast space that is light, airy and cool, with an ornate ceiling and columns, and lined with many chapels. The most well-known and richly-decorated of these is the Medici Chapel, located in the apse of the church. Nearly fifty members of the Medici family are buried in the lower crypt, and in the octagonal domed hall called the Chapel of the Princes, the dukes of the family are buried.
 
The construction of the chapel began after the deaths of Guiliano and Lorenzo de'Medici, two young heirs of the family, in 1516 and 1519, respectively. Funerary monuments for the Medici Chapels were commissioned by Pope Clement VII (formerly Cardinal Cuilio de'Medici) in 1520, and were designed and constructed by one of the greatest Italian Renaissance artists, Michelangelo, between 1520 and 1534.
 
The twin marble sculptures of Day and Night, and Dawn and Dusk are among Michelangelo's most famous works. These were constructed between 1520 and 1527. One sculpture sits atop curved based on each of the tombs of the young heirs—Day and Night on the tomb of Guiliano, and Dawn and Dusk on the tomb of Lorenzo. These allegorical sculptures were unique for the period in which they were constructed, and according to Michelangelo himself, they represent the inevitability of time and death. In wall niches behind each tomb are sculptures representing the Medici heirs, portrayed as young soldiers. Other works of sculpture created and placed during this period include depictions of several saints, and the altar of the basilica itself.
 
In 1527, work on the Medici Chapel was halted—Florence revolted against the Medici family, and Pope Clement fled. Interestingly, Michelangelo was the principle designer of fortifications and defensive structures erected at this time. The rule of the Medicis was re-established in 1530, and Michelangelo then returned to work on the chapels until 1534. Having been called upon by Pope Clement VII to paint The Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo did not remain long enough to complete the work he had begun in the Medici Chapel, and at least one piece of sculpture, depicting the Madonna, remained incomplete.
 
The Medici Chapel is open to visitors from 8.30am to 5 pm almost every day—the chapels are closed to visitors on the first and third Monday, and the second and fourth Sunday of every month, as well as December 25 and January 1. As part of the Basilica di San Lorenzo di Firenze, they are easy to locate in the center of the city. Admission is between two and fifteen Euros depending on who you book your ticket with, and whether or not you choose to take advantage of a guided tour.
Florence, Italy