Where does the Pope live? Well, the simple answer is the Pope lives in the Vatican. However, the Vatican is over 100 acres of land which of course is too big for one person, even if he is the Pope. So where exactly does the Pope live in the Vatican? Are you going to bump into him wandering the Sistine Chapel? And does the Pope spend all year round in Vatican City?
The Papal Apartments
It is customary for the Pope to move into the Papal Apartments after he is elected and they have been the official residence of the Pope since the 17th century. The Papal Apartments are located in the Apostolic Palace which can be seen on the northeast side as you face Saint Peter’s Basilica above the colonnades on Saint Peter’s Square.
Also known as Appartamento Ponitifico or Appartamento Nobile the residence consists of around ten rooms. Along with the Pope’s bedroom, he has his own private study where he gives his Papal blessing on Sundays from the window looking out onto Saint Peter’s Square to the thousands of people excited to get a glimpse of the Pope. The apartments also have a medical suite, a dining room, a living room, and a kitchen along with the Pope’s private chapel. There is a roof garden and a staff quarter for the nuns to take care of the Papal household.
Traditionally the Pope lives in the Papal Apartments for ten months of the year. In July and August, the Pope goes to his residence in Castel Gandolfo outside of Rome.
Domus Sanctae Marthae
Although it is custom for the Pope to move into the Papal Apartments at the Apostolic Palace Pope Francis refused this right after he was elected in 2013. He is the first Pope to refuse to live in the Papal Apartments since Pope Pius X in 1903.
Instead, Pope Francis choose to live in the Domus Sanctae Marthae or the House of Saint Martha which is a hotel that was built in 1996 under Pope John Paul II for members of the clergy who have business when visiting the Vatican. The Domus Sanctae Marthae was also built to house the College of Cardinals who come to the Vatican for conclave when electing a new Pope. When the Cardinals stay at the Domus Sanctae Marthae for conclave they are cut off from the outside world with all radio, television, and phones disconnected.
The modest Pope Francis choose to live here as the hotel is much less luxurious compared to the Papal Apartments. The U.S Ambassador described the residence as “comfortable but by no means deluxe”. Pope Francis stays in suite no. 201 with just his basic necessities and two Swiss Guard who guard his door day and night. The Domus Sanctae Marthae is inside the walls of Vatican City next to Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo
Traditionally during the months of July and August, the Pope will travel to the town of Castel Gandolfo to take up residence at the Apostolic Palace at the top of the town overlooking Lake Albano. The town of Castel Gandolfo is located 16 miles outside of Rome and can be easily visited by taking the train from Termini Station.
Castel Gandolfo has a population of 8,900 people and it is considered one of the most scenic locations in all of Italy. The castle where the Palazzo is now built was acquired by the Vatican in 1596 under Pope Paul V and recent popes such as Pope Pius XII in 1958 and Paul VI in 1978 passed away at the Palace in Castel Gandolfo. When the last Pope, Benedict XVI retired he flew directly to Castel Gandolfo to recuperate after his eight years as Pope before moving back to the Mater Ecclesiae Monastery in Vatican City.
Pope Francis decided he would not spend the summer months at the Palazzo in Castel Gandolfo and it is said he has never stayed the night there despite having visited the Palazzo on occasions.
The Palazzo has been opened up to the public as a museum since October 2016.