The Pope's Private Chapel
( Originally Published 1907 )
The room in which we now stand is of the same character as the throne-room; the floor of many-colored marbles, the tapestried walls, the frescoed space near the ceiling, and the artistic furniture, are general features of both rooms. The door in the center of the far wall is of a more elaborate design than usual; an inscription is engraved on the space beneath the plinth, and the papal arms are placed above it. As the double doors are thrown open you see into a small chapel which seems to have just room for a small altar and no more, but it is much larger than appears. It is in that chapel that the Pope says his daily Mass at the hour of seven each morning. His appearances in the Sistine Chapel and in St. Peter's are nowadays rare for various reasons, probably the most powerful being that the usual ceremonies cannot be held under present circumstances. In this small place he carries out his private devotions. Occasionally the privilege is accorded the faithful to attend the private Mass of the Pope, and even to receive the Holy Communion at his hands. In former times little princes of the blood royal came here to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation from the Pope, and many a royal gathering took place in this chamber. Forlorn royalty, driven from thrones by the revolutions of the past century and a half, knelt here for consolation. Empress Eugenie and her doomed son, the Prince Imperial, whose baptismal font is treasured in the Library, visited the Pope after the death of Napoleon III and heard his Mass in this chapel, afterwards receiving from him words of tenderest consolation. All the tragedy and pathos of the broken old order yielding sadly to the new have found expression in tears and sad prayers in this quiet room. Successful conquerors flung them out with little regard for their feelings, with much persecution for their faults and blunders, and with no thanks for their undoubted services to society; but here they were and are received with just recognition and sympathetic praise for their courage and resignation under suffering.
We now pass to another chamber of even deeper interest. Recall that view of the Vatican which we had from the southern fountain in the square (Position 10). It was pointed out that the apartments of the Secretary of State occupied the top floor, while those of the Pope were on the floor below. The fourth, fifth and sixth windows, counting from the left were pointed out as the study of the Pope. We are now going to see that room with its distinguished occupant busy at his desk. Find on the map the figure 23 in one of the rooms at the south end of the part of the palace which we are now visiting. It is on the side nearest the Piazza. The red lines show that we shall look towards the eastern end of the room and that the windows which overlook the Piazza will be at our right.