Apostolic Palace

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Not to be confused with Lateran Palace.
Apostolic Palace
Palazzo apostolico
0 Palazzo Apostolico - Piazza San Pietro (1).JPG
Alternative names
  • Palace of Sixtus V
  • Palace of the Vatican
  • Papal Palace
General information
Type Official residence
Country Vatican City
Coordinates 41°54′13″N 12°27′23″E / 41.90361°N 12.45639°E / 41.90361; 12.45639Coordinates: 41°54′13″N 12°27′23″E / 41.90361°N 12.45639°E / 41.90361; 12.45639
Construction started 30 April 1589[1]
Owner The Pope

The Apostolic Palace (Italian: Palazzo Apostolico) is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican. The Vatican itself refers to the building as the Palace of Sixtus V in honor of Pope Sixtus V.[2]

The Portone di Bronzo at the Vatican Apostolic Palace entrance.

The building contains the Papal Apartments, various government offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums and the Vatican library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms and Borgia Apartment. The modern tourist can see these last and other parts of the palace, but not many parts, including the Sala Regia and Cappella Paolina. The Scala Regia can be seen into from one end but not entered.

History[edit]

In the fifth century, Pope Symmachus built a papal palace close to the Old St. Peter's Basilica which served an alternative residence to the Lateran Palace. The construction of a second fortified palace was sponsored by Pope Eugene III and extensively modified under Pope Innocent III in the twelfth century.[3]

Upon returning to Rome in 1377 after the interlude of the Avignon Papacy, which saw Rome subject to civil unrest and the abandonment of several Christian monuments, the Popes chose to reside first at Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and then at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The Vatican Palace had fallen into disrepair from lack of upkeep and the Lateran Palace underwent two destructive fires, in 1307 and 1361, which did irreparable harm.[4] In 1447, Pope Nicholas V razed the ancient fortified-palace of Eugene III to erect a new building, the current Apostolic Palace.[5]

In the 15th century, the Palace was placed under the authority of a prefect. This position of Apostolic Prefect lasted from the 15th century till the 1800s, when the Papal States fell into economic difficulties. In 1884, when this post was reviewed in light of saving money, Pope Leo XIII created a committee to administer the palace.[6]

The major additions and decorations of the palace are the work of the following Popes for 150 years. Construction of the current version of the palace began on 30 April 1589[1] under Pope Sixtus V and its various intrinsic parts completed by later successors, Pope Urban VII, Pope Innocent XI and Pope Clement VIII. In the twentieth century, Pope Pius XI built a monumental art gallery and museum entrance.

Palace structure[edit]

A model of the palace in the Vatican Museums. The buildings are arranged around a central courtyard.

The Apostolic Palace is run by the Prefecture of the Pontifical Household. The palace is more accurately a series of self-contained buildings within the well-recognized outer structure which is arranged around the Courtyard of Sixtus V (Cortile di Sisto V). It is located North-East of St Peter's Basilica and adjacent to the Bastion of Nicholas V and Palace of Gregory XIII.

The Apostolic Palace houses both residential and support offices of various functions as well as administrative offices not focused on the life and functions of the Pope himself.

Sistine Chapel[edit]

Main article: Sistine Chapel
A tall, narrow room with a highly detailed painted ceiling depicting Bible scenes
Under the patronage of Julius II, Michelangelo painted the chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512.

Perhaps the best-known of the Palace chapels is the Sistine Chapel named in honor of Sixtus IV (Francesco della Rovere). It is famous for its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and others.

One of the primary functions of the chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive Pope in a conclave of the College of Cardinals. In this behind locked doors election, the cardinals choose a successor to the first Pope, St. Peter, who has traditionally set up residence within the Apostolic Palace.

Raphael Rooms[edit]

Main article: Raphael Rooms

This suite of rooms is famous for its frescos by a large team of artists working under Raphael. They were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael, then a relatively young artist from Urbino, and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to redecorate the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius' intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI, as the Stanze are directly above Alexander's Borgia Apartments. They are on the third floor, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard.

Running from east to west, as a visitor would have entered the apartment, but reversing the sequence in which the Stanze were frescoed, and also the route of the modern visitor, the rooms are the Sala di Costantino ("Hall of Constantine"), the Stanza di Eliodoro ("Room of Heliodorus"), the Stanza della Segnatura (the earliest and the most admired) ("Room of the Signatura") and the Stanza dell'Incendio del Borgo ("The Room of the Fire in the Borgo").

After the death of Julius in 1513, with two rooms frescoed, Pope Leo X continued the program. Following Raphael's death in 1520, his assistants Gianfrancesco Penni, Giulio Romano and Raffaellino del Colle finished the project with the frescoes in the Sala di Costantino.

Borgia Apartments[edit]

Main article: Borgia Apartments

The Borgia Apartments are a suite of rooms in the Palace adapted for personal use by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrígo de Borgia). He commissioned the Italian painter Pinturicchio to lavishly decorate the apartments with frescoes.

The paintings and frescoes, which were executed between 1492 and 1494, drew on a complex iconographic program that used themes from medieval encyclopedias, adding an eschatological layer of meaning and celebrating the supposedly divine origins of the Borgias.[7]

The rooms are variously considered a part of the Vatican Library and Vatican Museums. Some of the rooms are now used for the Vatican Collection of Modern Religious Art, inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1973.

Clementine Hall[edit]

Main article: Clementine Hall

The Clementine Hall was established in the 16th century by Pope Clement VIII in honor of Pope Clement I, the third Pope. Like other chapels and apartments in the Palace, the hall is notable for its large collection of frescos and other art.

Other uses[edit]

The term Apostolic Palace has been used in other contexts not directly related to the actual Palace of Sixtus V.

It has been used, for example, as a metonym for the papacy itself in the same way the term "White House" is used to describe the United States Presidential administration generally, rather than the physical building itself.

The term was also referenced in the video game Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, where a player could establish an Apostolic Palace as the symbolic "home" of a civilization's state religion.[8] While the game's developers did represent the Apostolic Palace function with an image of St. Peter's Square (adjacent to the Apostolic Palace), the image, somewhat ironically, does not actually include a view of the Palace itself. Regardless, the in-game function of the Apostolic Palace is not religion-specific and the use of the term is representative of religious administration generally, rather than a specific reference to the Vatican.

See also[edit]

Gallery[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ a b The lives of the modern painters, sculptors and architects - Giovanni Pietro Bellori
  2. ^ Vatican Press Office guide - buildings of the Vatican
  3. ^ "Le Palais du Vatican" [Palace of the Vatican] (in French). Rome Découverte. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  4. ^ Pedro Tafur, Andanças e viaje (in Spanish)
  5. ^ Müntz, Eugène (1878). Les arts à la cour des Papes pendant le XVe et le XVIe siècle (in French). Georg Olms Verlag. ISBN 9783487413006. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  6. ^ Levillain 2002, p. 1093-1094.
  7. ^ Krén, Emil; Marx, Daniel. "Frescoes in the Borgia Apartments of the Palazzi Pontifici in Vatican". Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved 14 August 2013. 
  8. ^ Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword Official Site

References[edit]