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The Gardens of the Vatican

( Originally Published 1907 )



The map shows in detail all the garden district over which we are looking. Thick foliage marks the part nearest to us, and in the center of it we see a lodge or "casino," used by the Pope as a change from the routine of the Vatican. In speaking of the Pope as the "Prisoner of the Vatican" it must be remembered that the phrase is purely political ; it arose from the fact that Pius IX and his successors refused to recognize the King of Italy as the ruler of the old papal States. In order to emphasize for the diplomats and the faithful their protest against the King, the Popes have steadily re-fused to leave the Vatican, or to accept the remuneration offered by the Italian government. and have always referred to their present condition as an imprisonment. In, former days the Popes summered some miles away in the Alban Hills at a villa known as Castel Gandolpho. Now they never leave the precincts of the Vatican at all but spend their summers in these gardens. Leo XIII built his own casino in another part of the gar-den, and there in sultry days composed his famous Latin verses and solaced himself with the delights of literature.

The avenues which cross and recross the garden are lined with orange-trees cut into hedges, in which golden fruit and alabaster blossoms give animation to the lovely foliage. Ancient olive trees give an air of solemnity and dignity to some spots; old tombs are set here and there; little summer-houses enliven one scene, gardeners' cottages with tiled roofs another. There is a drive of two miles and a half around the garden, often enjoyed by the Pope, who leaves his carriage occasionally for short walks among the groves and shrubberies. In order that he may be undisturbed in his rambles ordinary visitors are rigorously excluded from the gardens; but from up here in the dome his white figure can often be seen as he walks along in conversation with his attendants and friends. In that path which leads almost straight towards us, in the shadow of the heavy trees at the left, we shall see the Pope later on (Position 32) and the scene will not fade from the mind easily, because the white-robed figure will have behind it in perspective the great dome from whose lantern we are now looking down. That path is called the Viale del Pilone. From it leads another to the left, into the very heart of the grove, where we shall see the Pope again on his return from the pious grotto of Lourdes.

Before we descend, let us take our seventh position once more to fix in our minds clearly the shape of the Vatican. When Pius X sets out for a walk in the gardens he passes from his own apartments into the Gallery of Inscriptions, from the Gallery into the second transverse' building, from that into the library corridor, and thence into the gardens. We are presently to examine the same road, which has been trodden by so many famous pontiffs for centuries.

Our next standpoint is marked on the map as number 10 in the red circle. It is near the southern fountain of the Piazza and from it we shall be looking northwest, towards that portion of the Vatican palace which we could not see from the dome.



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