Thursday, February 25, 2016

Living near Papal Palaces: Rome and Viterbo

 Viterbo Duomo and Papal Palace (right), painting by Justin Bradshaw
In the 1960s and 70s  I  lived  in Rome  around the corner from the Vatican  and counted St. Peter’s Basilica as my parish church. Several extraordinary events  happened in those years: the  election and death  of two popes  (John Paul I  and  John Paul II) in quick succession and the shooting of John Paul II  in the Piazza in 1981.  

sunset, garden side of the Papal Palace

Duomo seen from the Papal Loggia
The Vatican/ Borgo Pio neighborhood was always buzzing with brightly robed  bishops and cardinals and  crowds of pilgrims and clergy from all corners of the world filled the side streets, the religious souvenir shops and  pizzerias surrounding the Vatican  from Easter until late autumn.
The Vatican  post office, the  Library, Museums and  Archives were essential  parts of the neighborhood. In  those  days  many people with passes entered Sant’Anna gate  to shop at the Vatican pharmacy or supermarket and do business at the (in)famous Vatican bank.
You can read more on the Vatican  on past blog entries by writing "Vatican" in the search bar. 
 Many more insider tips on touring in Rome can be found on  my award winning  website  which has been offering free insider information on line since 2000.

Renaissance Windows, Viterbo
 Fast forward  half a century  and I find myself  living near  another  Papal Palace, located  in  Viterbo, where the first Papal Conclave was held in the 12th century . 
approaching the Duomo, Viterbo
Due to unhealthy and dangerous  times in Rome the seat of the Papacy  had been  moved from the Vatican to this quieter town  and when Portuguese pope Pope John XXI  died in the collapse of his studio, a group of  cardinals arrived to elect his successor.  But this election  dragged on and on.
 The cardinals  could not come to a decision for they were under political pressures from their home countries. In  the meantime they were wined, dined and housed at the city’s expense. Finally  Capitano del Popolo, Raniero Gatti, decided to put an end to this  free-loading and had the group of cardinals closed  (cum clave=with the key, origin of the word conclave) inside the drafty hall where the elections were being held.
Then he suspended their food and wine and as a last straw the roof was removed, to make it “easier for the Holy Spirit to enlighten” the cardinals and help them to come to a decision. 
conclave hall

Things have changed at the Papal Palace of Viterbo since then. For centuries  the palace and church complex were in disrepair and rarely visited. Now after ten years of  promotion and  museum management  by  Archeoares, the palace and museum  complex count over 20,000 visitors annually making it  Viterbo’s  best known   tourist attraction.

This multi-building  site and the historic characters connected with it come alive during the 45 minute guided  tours offered by Archeotuscia’s guides, Elena, Sara and others. 
 Besides the Papal Palace, the Conclave Hall,  the frescoed Gualterio hall and  newly opened  audio visual room in the tower, tourists can now explore corners of the Duomo once off limits to visitors : the Baroque Choir  and Sacristry as well as the Museum complex opened in  Holy year 2000.
frescoed ceiling of the hidden Baroque choir 

a bust of Letizia Bonaparte greets visitors to the Museum..
Among past visitors were Nathaniel Hawthorne and his wife Sophia  who passed through Viterbo in 1858. Both of them disliked the town: the waiters at their hotel cheated them and  they avoided the unsavoury San Pellegrino medieval quarter  but  spoke well  of the sunny resting spot at  the Papal Palace where they  relaxed and sketched the  airy loggia and  fountain.  Discover more about early  visitors to the Viterbo area in  my books  which are available  directly from the website or in bookshops in Italy. Some are also available through
More about visiting the Papal Palace of Viterbo can be found on Archeoares website:
..while Chiara and Barbara greet visitors at the adjacent bookshop

You are cordially invited to my next presentation, Friday  March  4th in Vetralla's Library .

Venerdì 4 marzo 2016 alle ore 16.30


      “I NOSTRI CASTELLI …                    ….VERI GIOIELLI”


    Mary Jane Cryan                


                       Storia, curiosità e turismo


More  info: Biblioteca Comunale di Vetralla – Via Brugiotti 41, 01019 Vetralla
Email:        -     telefono  


1 comment:

  1. Mi piacerebbe tanto essere a questa presentazione ! Sto pensando andare a Roma per seguire corsi di lingua italiana per stranieri (parlo francese) e un mio sogno da anni ! Vorrei approfondire la mia conoscenza di questa lingua. Se Lei a suggerimenti di scuole a Roma per pensionati con attività fuori l'insegnamento, sarei felicissima di avere informazioni. Grazie per il Suo Blog. Tante informazioni ! Lei puo contattarmi in privato. Ho già comprato un Suo libro un paio di anno fa.