Here is a book which might help reporters — and the faithful coming to Rome from all over the world for the Conclave and the first period of the new Pope this spring — to understand the political and juridical realities of the Holy See in greater detail. The book is the General Guide to Vatican City, published by Jaca Book in partnership with the Vatican publishing house Libreria Editrice Vaticana and the Vatican Museums; it is meant to fill a publishing gap, which at first reading might sound strange, to say the least. Though valuable books on the Vatican Gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica were available, a single rigorous publication was wanting which might supply ac­cur­ate and complete information on the whole historical and artistic heritage contained in the Vatican. In more than 80 years, only one attempt was made, and it was not completed. But now, as Director of the Vatican Museums Antonio Paolucci pointed out at the presentation of the volume, tourists and pilgrims can have a small guide ranking with the prestigious Red Guides of the Italian Touring Club in style, accuracy and information quality.

Divided into three sections (Vatican City, The Vatican Museums, How to Visit Vatican City), this guidebook provides information, at once synthetic and accurate, on the Apostolic Palace, the Necropolis, the Vatican Library, the Secret Archives, and the Vatican Museums and Gardens. It also contains information on details of daily life inside the Leonine Walls, such as the business hours of shops and offices, stamp and coin issues, and the procedure for getting tickets for papal audiences, the Vatican Museums, and the Pontifical Galleries.

Each section is preceded by a general introduction written by a group of 32 scholars including experts in history, architecture, art and botany, both from inside and outside the Vatican. These experts edited each section and added pictures, maps, and plans intended to make visits easier.

“I can say that working on this guidebook was great fun,” said the president of Jaca Book, Sante Bagnoli, stressing that it is a work in progress. “It has just been published and we will soon need to insert the name of Benedict XVI’s successor.”

In addition to being available in six languages — Italian, English, French, Spanish, German and Russian — an e-book version for portable media players and tablets is in preparation.

The guide also features a great number of anecdotes. For instance, we discover that there are exactly 100 fountains in the Vatican Gardens, which cover half of the entire state’s area, and that a piece of the Berlin Wall which was donated to John Paul II is kept there.

Also, we get to know about the passion for flowers of Paul V, who in 1561 enriched the Gardens with 470 new species from the East and America.

“This volume combines religious publishing with tourist guides,” said Father Giuseppe Costa, director of the Libreria Editrice Vaticana, who dedicated the guide to Pope Benedict XVI.


(Originally published on the Korazym website).

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