The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope. The building contains the Papal Apartments, various offices of the Catholic Church and the Holy See, private and public chapels, Vatican Museums, and the Vatican Library, including the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and Borgia Apartment. The modern tourist can see these last and other parts of the palace, but other parts, such as the Sala Regia and Cappella Paolina, are closed to tourists.
In the fifth century, Pope Symmachus built a papal palace close to the Old St. Peter's Basilica which served an alternative residence to the Lateran Palace. The construction of a second fortified palace was sponsored by Pope Eugene III and extensively modified under Pope Innocent III in the twelfth century.
Upon returning to Rome in 1377 after the interlude of the Avignon Papacy, which saw Rome subject to civil unrest and the abandonment of several Christian monuments, the popes chose to reside first at Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere and then at Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. The Vatican Palace had fallen into disrepair from lack of upkeep and the Lateran Palace underwent two destructive fires, in 1307 and 1361, which did irreparable harm. In 1447, Pope Nicholas V razed the ancient fortified palace of Eugene III to erect a new building, the current Apostolic Palace.
In the 15th century, the Palace was placed under the authority of a prefect. This position of Apostolic Prefect lasted from the 15th century till the 1800s, when the Papal States fell into economic difficulties. In 1884, when this post was reviewed in light of saving money, Pope Leo XIII created a committee to administer the palace.
Construction of the Papal Palace at the Vatican in Vatican City, took place mainly between 1471 and 1605. The major additions and decorations of the palace are the work of the following popes for 150 years. Construction of the current version of the palace began on 30 April 1589 under Pope Sixtus V and its various intrinsic parts were completed by later successors, Pope Urban VII, Pope Innocent XI and Pope Clement VIII. In the 20th century, Pope Pius XI built a monumental art gallery and museum entrance.
Perhaps the best known of the Palace chapels is the Sistine Chapel named in honor of Sixtus IV. It is famous for its decoration that was frescoed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and others.
One of the primary functions of the chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive Pope in a conclave of the College of Cardinals. In this closed-door election, the cardinals choose a successor to the first pope, St. Peter, who has traditionally set up residence within the Apostolic Palace.
This suite of rooms is famous for its frescos by a large team of artists working under Raphael. They were originally intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. He commissioned Raphael, then a relatively young artist from Urbino, and his studio in 1508 or 1509 to redecorate the existing interiors of the rooms entirely. It was possibly Julius' intent to outshine the apartments of his predecessor (and rival) Pope Alexander VI, as the Stanze are directly above Alexander's Borgia Apartments. They are on the third floor, overlooking the south side of the Belvedere Courtyard.
The Borgia Apartments is a suite of rooms in the Palace adapted for personal use by Pope Alexander VI (Rodrígo de Borgia). He commissioned the Italian painter Pinturicchio to lavishly decorate the apartments with frescoes.
The paintings and frescoes, which were executed between 1492 and 1494, drew on a complex iconographic program that used themes from medieval encyclopedias, adding an eschatological layer of meaning and celebrating the supposedly divine origins of the Borgias.
The Clementine Hall was established in the 16th century by Pope Clement VIII in honor of Pope Clement I, the third pope. Like other chapels and apartments in the Palace, the hall is notable for its large collection of frescos and other art.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.