|Construction started||30 April 1589|
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.
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 Borgia Apartment now used to house artworks.
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.
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. In 1447, Pope Nicholas V razed the ancient fortified-palace of Eugene III to erect a new building, the current Apostolic Palace.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
The rooms are variously considered a part of the Vatican Library and Vatican Museums. Most of the rooms are now used for the Vatican Collection of Modern Religious Art, inaugurated by Pope Paul VI in 1973.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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- Levillain 2002, p. 1093-1094.
- Krén, Emil; Marx, Daniel. "Frescoes in the Borgia Apartments of the Palazzi Pontifici in Vatican". Web Gallery of Art. Retrieved 14 August 2013.
- Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword Official Site
- Levillain, Philippe (2002), Dictionnaire historique de la papauté, The Papacy: An Encyclopedia II (Illustrated ed.), Routledge, ISBN 0-415-92230-5, retrieved 20 December 2009
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