Sunday, 14 January 2007

Inside the Apostolic Palace

On Wednesday afternoon we were fortunate enough to be given a tour of parts of the Apostolic Palace which are not normally open to the public, courtesy of a friend of mine who works in the curia. Of course, there was a limit to how far we could go - especially in the reign of this most private of pontiffs, there was certainly no chance of getting close to his private apartments or those of the new Secretary of State. However, we were able to see some of the most splendid rooms in the Vatican - and, armed with my digital camera, I was able to take a few discreet pictures.

When we think of the Papal Court we immediately think of the Vatican but over the centuries the Pope has used other palaces both in the Eternal City (like the Lateran and Quirinale) and elsewhere (such as Viterbo and Avignon). Indeed, it was not until 1870 that the Palazzo Vaticano became the principal papal residence and it was only St Pius X who moved into the now familiar apartments on the third floor (which had formally been used by the Secretary of State). The first popes did not live at the Vatican - until the time of Pope Symmachus (498-514) the area was little more than a hillside cemetery with a few houses and the shrine of St Peter. Symmachus built two episcopia beside the early basilica, later developed by Leo III (795-816), Gregory IV (827-44), Leo IV (847-55, who built the Leonine Wall), Eugenius III (1145-53), Innocent III (1198-1216) and Nicholas III (1277-80). However, much of what we saw was the result of the Renaissance and Counter-Reformation Popes, eager to add glory both to the Papacy and their noble families. Over the next 24 hours I'll be posting some shots of the splendid interior of 'Peter's House'...

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