Apartments in Rome, Sicily and in the Amalfi coast.

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The Vatican has been the residence of the popes only since 1377, six centuries interrupted by long stays at the Quirinal Palace. Before the pontifical court was transferred to Avignon (1309-1377), the headquarters of the pope had been at the Lateran. Since then, there has not been a pope who has failed to contribute to the grandeur and dignity of the Vatican, to make this holy hill an increasingly worthy seat for the Supreme Head of the Catholic Church. An uninterrupted succession of 265 men has sat on St. Peter’s throne, many of whom were martyrs and saints. The Vatican has been an independent state (called the Vatican City) since February 11, 1929, when the Lateran Treaty definitively resolved the “Roman Issue” between the Church and the Italian State. In Roman times, the Vatican was the site of the great Circus of Nero, where under Nero, St. Peter was crucified. His body was buried nearby, more that 250 years later, Constantine built a magnificent basilica on the spot, which was destined to become one of the marvels of the world. During the 73 years that the papacy was in Avignon, the already old basilica was so neglected that restoration was impossible. Pope Nicolas V (1447-1455) decided to rebuilt it, and gave the project to Rossellino, but after the pope’s death, all work was suspended. It was Pope Julius II (1503-1513) who began the construction of a new basilica, entrusting Bramante with the design of the great architectural project, which took 176 years to complete. The greatest church in Christendom, St. Peters’s Basilica, rises on the grandiose St. Peter’s Square. Michelangelo’s mighty silver-blue dome dominates the scene, blending into the sky above, conveying a sense of the absolute and infinite, which touches the soul of all who gaze upon it. The construction of the dome proceeded through problems and obstacles of every kind. Michelangelo wa already quite old when he began the project in 1546, and when he died in 1564 only the drum had been completed. The rest of the work was finished between 1588 and 1589 by Giacomo della Porta and Domenico Fontana. The Colonnade is Bernini’s most beautiful work, and forms the solemn entrance to S. Peter’s and the Vatican. The two great open semicircular wings seem as if they were the outstretched arms of the church, receiving all of mankind in one universal embrace. If some of Bernini other works appear to be extravagant, this colonnade shows the height of his genius. He also designed the 140 statues of saints which decorate the colonnade, which were sculpted with the help of his pupils. Pope Sixtus V (1585-1590) chose Domenico Fontana to oversee the erection of the Obelisk in the middle of the piazza, a considerable task which aroused wonder and great enthusiasm in the people. The obelisk measures more than 25 meters in height and was brought from the nearby ruins of the Circus of Nero. The two fountains, the one on the right designed by Maderno, and the one on the left by Carlo Fontana, harmonize beautifully with the vast square. The Borghese Pope Paul V commissioned Maderno (1607-1614) to construct the broad façade of the church, and had his name and title written in very large letters across the entablature. The Loggia of the Benediction, above the central entrance, is used to proclaim the election of a new pope, and it is from here that he delivers his first blessing, “Urbi et Orbi” (to the city and the world).