The apostolic place in the Vatican

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For over a thousand years the popes lived in Rome’s Cathedral, San Giovanni in Laterano – Saint John Lateran, built by emperor Constantine in the fourth century.

For over a thousand years the popes lived in Rome’s Cathedral, San Giovanni in Laterano – Saint John Lateran, built by emperor Constantine in the fourth century. After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (476 AD), the barbarian invasions and political instability, a fortified citadel around the Lateran was created, which became dilapidated and impractical with the transfer of the papacy to Avignon (1309-1377). The holy see was then transferred to the Vatican, where medieval buildings protected by walls already existed.

It was enriched with new buildings until the 1600s, when the number of rooms in the building exceeded 1000.

We shall deal with the most grandiloquent and representative of these buildings: that of Sixtus V (1585-1590).

The papal apartment in the Palace of Sixtus V

Domenico Fontana - the architect who transported the obelisk in front of the Vatican basilica - built the elegant grey building, overlooking St. Peter's square, which visually detaches itself from the series of buildings of different shapes, that were joined at different times, behind it.

The palace incorporated the tower of Niccolò V (1453), which today is the home of the IOR (Vatican bank).

This building full of frescoes, sculptures and works of art housed the papal residence from the beginning. Francis is the first pontiff who does not live there, but goes there for his activities.

The Papal Apartment is on the 3rd floor and has a dozen rooms: the library, a sitting room, the study of the private secretariat, the pope’s study with the famous Angelus window, the bedroom (where John Paul II died) - which corresponds externally to the first window on the right of the top floor - a bathroom, an infirmary and a private chapel.

On the 2nd floor there is the luxurious “appartamento nobile” - "noble apartment" - for private audiences with heads of state, the refined "del tronetto" - “small throne” - room, the library and the “sala del Concistoro” - “Hall of the Consistory” - where Benedict XVI announced his renunciation. For events with a larger number of people there is the Sala Clementina – Clementine Hall - and finally the jewel of contemporary art the Redemptoris Mater chapel, decorated in 1999 with mosaics by the Jesuit father Rupnik.

The building houses the apartment of the Cardinal Secretary of State and other government offices.

In the early 1600s the popes moved their headquarters to the Quirinal Palace until 1870 (the fall of the Papal State), when it was requisitioned by the king of Italy as his residence and the popes returned to the Vatican.

The Bronze Gate where you can find tickets to participate in meetings with the Holy Father

The bronze door patrolled by the Swiss Guards is the main entrance to the Apostolic Palace and leads via Bernini's Scala Regia to the Sistine Chapel.

From the vestibule of the Scala Regia you go up to the 1st floor of the Palace where the Prefecture of the Papal House is located, which issues free tickets to participate in celebrations and papal audiences, to be collected from the Office at the Bronze Gate.

The famous window

The papal study window, located on the top floor, second from the right, is the one from which every Sunday (and solemn occasion) at noon the pope appears to recite the Angelus prayer and bless the faithful. For the occasion, a red and gold velvet cloth with the papal coat of arms is hung from the window.

Participation in the Angelus is free, and the tradition dates back to Pius XII (August 1954).

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