(Vatican Radio) The Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo has long been known as the summer retreat of Popes. But now in an historic first the Papal apartments will be open to the public from October 22nd.
Lydia O’Kane went along to see the private living quarters of the Pontiffs.
The Papal residence at Castel Gandolfo in the Roman hills has been offering Pope’s down through the centuries rest and relaxation during the summer months from the official duties of office.
The last Pope to reside here was Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, but now Pope Francis has given permission for the papal apartments themselves to be open to the public. This follows the success of visits to the Villa Barberini Gardens and the Portrait Gallery of the Popes.
For tourists and those passionate about Church art and history, it’s a chance to walk in the footsteps of Pontiffs. There is the Swiss Hall, and the Throne Room with their impressive lakeside view. But it's the Pope’s reserved quarters that evokes the most interest and gives a sense that one is intruding on a very private space. On the desk in the Pope’s private study there is still a pencil and eraser left by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI and the Pope’s bedroom gives an air of elegance without being ostentatious. Then there is the private Chapel which houses a reproduction of the icon of the Madonna of Czestochowa.
So with this opening, will the summer retreat continue to be a Papal residence? Sandro Barbagallo Curator of Collections of the Vatican Museums says like Pope Francis, not all Popes lived here. He says, “from this point of view the choice of Pope Francis is his personal decision, we can’t do anything but accept it and anyway this choice doesn’t in anyway mean the end of Castel Gandolfo as a summer residence.”
In honour of this historic inauguration musicians came all the way from the Guangzhou Opera House in China to perform popular Chinese songs entitled “beauty unites us”, and another cultural element to this event.
Down the road, the residents in the town of Castel Gandolfo take pride in the fact that Popes down through the years have chosen to come here for their summer break. So what do they think of this new opening. Stefano, a barman in the local café says, “it’s an important historical event because it’s true it shows, let’s say, the new opening to the public of the Pope’s residence, but it also demonstrates an end for now of the Holy Father at Castel Gandolfo and we are very sorry about that.”
Who knows whether a future Pope will decide to reside here again, but until then visitors can enjoy and be inspired by the beauty of this residence fit for a Pope.
The Papal apartments at the Pontifical residence at Castel Gandolfo will be open from October 22.
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