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Thursday, March 12, 2015

Pope to leave Summer Residence. How long before he also forsakes Rome and the Vatican?

The papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo could soon be transformed into a museum and will be made accessible to the public who will pay an entrance fee. According to the Spanish news site, InfoVaticana Pope Francis has concrete plans in this direction. Shortly after his election as Pope, Francis announced that he did not intend to make use of Castel Gandolfo as a summer resort.

 In fact, the Argentine Pope has spent no night in the castle in the Alban Hills. Only three times has he visited the place. The first time, he visited his retired predecessor, Benedict XVI and the visit on the other two times each on August 15 was for the Solemnity of the Assumption. A festival that was celebrated in the city traditionally in the presence of the reigning Pope, who was at this time has a retreat there. In order not to disappoint the people of Castel Gandolfo too much, Pope Francis comes to this festival at least once a year in the city.

The area of the Castelli Romani in the Alban Hills is valued for its mild climate. Castel Gandolfo, one of those places liess majestically above the steep slope to a crater lake, the Lake Albano, an extinct volcano. Already in ancient Rome, the great families of the Empire built villas here to escape the summer heat of Rome. The villa of the emperor Domitian (81-96) forms the basis of the current Pope's summer palace. Built soon after 1100 by the Gandolfi, a noble family of Lombard descent, hence the name Castrum Gandulphi, it is a castle around which arose the present town.

The castle and land were given to the Holy See in 1596. In 1624, Pope Urban VIII created today's Palais des Papes. In the Lateran Treaty, it is recognized as the Papal Palace and thus an extraterritorial area. Several Popes, including Pope Pius XII and Paul VI have died there.

While Benedict XVI often appreciated the climate and the rest in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Francis has taken little pleasure in the magnificent baroque gardens and since 1936, the seat of the Specula, pleasure in the Vatican Observatory. He is of the opinion that the Vatican is "the last princely palace of Europe" which he wants to leave.

Castle and gardens include an area of 55 hectares. In March 2014, Francis made the gardens open to the public. Now he wants to also now unlock the doors and turn it into a tourist attraction and give the revenue to Vatican finances.

In the Vatican, there are some concerns. Future popes might see it differently to Francis and again might want to use Castel Gandolfo as a summer residence. A recovery would be difficult.

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