Saturday, January 07, 2006

Behind those windows

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- When he was elected last April, Pope Benedict XVI inherited the papal apartment on the top floor of the Apostolic Palace, but it wasn't until Christmas that the pope could really call it home.

The apartment, about 10 rooms in all, underwent a three-month renovation this fall. Electrical wiring was replaced, new pipes were installed, the kitchen was refurbished and a custom-fitted private library was put in place.

"I can only admire the things you've done, like these beautiful floors," he told the more than 200 architects, engineers and workers involved in the remodeling project.

"I really like my new library, with that antique ceiling. For me it's like being surrounded by friends, now that there are books on the shelf," he said.

The floors were the original 16th-century marble slabs and inlay, restored to their original luster. The library solved the problem of where to put the pope's 20,000 books, which he did not want to leave in storage somewhere.

Those who frequented the papal apartment under Pope John Paul II have no doubt that the place needed an overhaul. Polish film director Krzysztof Zanussi, a friend of the late pope, once said he was astonished at the gloominess of the place, with its outmoded furnishings and lack of lighting.

"Everything was in semidarkness, somber and without inspiration. The chairs were like the ones my aunt had in the suburbs of Warsaw," Zanussi said. "It was not a place that made one feel good."

The fact that workmen finished the pope's apartment in only three months impressed everyone in Rome, where even small-scale renovations seem to take forever.

"I had a small house built for me in Germany once," the pope told the workmen. "I'm convinced that anywhere else this project would have taken a year or perhaps longer."

From a German pope to his Italian makeover team, it was a high compliment.


Read the complete article No place like home: Papal apartment gets extreme makeover from Catholic News Service.

I love rooms that are well lit and have a lot of windows opening up to the outside. A nice yellow coat of paint absorbs and diffuses sunlight so well. But I have to admit, reading that they added better lighting to the papal apartments... Come on! They're supposed to be dark and give the aura of secret meetings and conspiratorial conversations!

No, really. I don't have quite as many books as the Holy Father (yet), but I would dearly love a library with marble floors and excellent lighting to read under.

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