No Place Like Home: Papal Apartment Gets Extreme MakeoverBy 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.
It was "Extreme Makeover: Vatican Edition." And while the pope didn't whoop or jump up and down at the unveiling, he made it clear he was pleased with the results.
"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.
Details of the remodeling were considered secret, but they emerged in the sideways fashion typical of the Vatican. When Bruno Bartoloni, a veteran Vatican correspondent for the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, went to have his hair cut recently, he found himself seated next to a talkative member of the restoration team.
The renovation, the workman related, was long overdue. The architects said they were surprised at the poor state of the apartment.
For one thing, the electrical system was not up to code. Some rooms still used old 125-volt electrical outlets, which were phased out years ago in Italy in favor of 220 volts. The water pipes were encrusted with rust and lime, and the heating system was approximate at best.
Above the false ceiling, workers discovered big drums placed strategically to catch the leaks from the roof; some were nearly full of water.
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