Apostolic Palace II: The Scala and Sala Regia
The Scala Regia leads to the magnificent Sala Regia, which Vasari once described as 'the most beautiful and richest hall that there has ever been in the world.' The decoration was not simply meant to be pretty but an in-your-face statement of papal primacy and power, designed to impress visiting emperors, kings and princes. The paintings provide a colourful 'key moments in papal history,' such as the Donations of Constantine (echoing the Emperor's equestrian statue on the Scala Regia) and Liutprand. Most remarkably, two events which occurred just before the paintings were executed are included: victories over the Turks (Lepanto, 1571, seen below) and the Protestants (St Bartholomew's Day Massacre, 1572).
The Sala is basically a thoroughfare between the Papal Apartments, the Pauline and Sistine Chapels and St Peter's Basilica. It is through the Sala that the Cardinals process into conclave and that the new Pope makes his way to the central loggia to bless the city and the world; it is through the Sala that the Pope's body is carried for the funeral rites. It is only used very rarely by the Pope - most recently last Monday when he addressed the Roman curia. When we visited, the impressive throne resurrected by Papa Benedetto still stood round the corner, ready to be put into storage for another year: