When I first saw the statement in Peter DeRosa's best seller, "Vicars of Christ" that the Vatican Palace had 11,000 rooms, I was sure that I had found a typographical error. Surely he meant to say 11 hundred, which would be enormous enough for a collection of buildings of different periods that cover some 13 1/2 acres (5.5 hectares). Since I had the author's email address, I thought he would welcome this find, if it hadn't already been brought to his attention.
This is how the author responded (within a few hours):
from: Peter De Rosa
[ Now that's my idea of a scholar! Ray Dubuque ]
To: Ray Dubuque
Sent: Friday, August 20, 2004
Subject: 11,000 Rooms?
Some years back, with questions coming at me from all over the world about Vicars of Christ, and having no secretary, I promised myself I would not answer any more questions about that book. If I did I would not be able to write any more. (And he has published several other books since). This is, therefore, by way of an exception to a golden rule!
I seem to remember I first came across a reference to the 11,000 rooms in Zola's
novel Rome (1896). It is as much a guide book as a novel, in fact, a
marvellously researched guidebook, better than most. I wondered if this was a
slip of the pen.
In O Vatican (1984), Paul Hofmann, for 35 years the NYT foreign correspondent,
writes, "Nobody seems to know exactly how many rooms the Vatican has, although
12,000 windows have been counted. There are certainly considerably more than
1,000 halls, chambers, chapels, etc."
In Pilgrim Walks in Rome (4th edition 1924), Paul Chandlery SJ writes: "The
Vatican is a world in itself. Even those who have visited it can form a very
insufficient idea of its immensity. It is not one palace, it is a collection of palaces (museums, art galleries etc) and about 11,000 rooms."
In Ave Roma Immortalis (1928) , F. Marion Crawford writes: "An American lady, on
hearing that the Vatican is said to contain 11,000 rooms, threw up her hands and
laughingly exclaimed, 'Think of the housemaids!' (In fact, no feminine influence
Them, as they say, is me last words on the topic.
According to The Pocket Guide to World History:
"Vatican. 1146 AD palace begun. 11,000 rooms; the world’s largest residence."
& the book, The Incredible Book of Vatican Facts and Papal Curiosities
by Nino Lo Bello
Vatican property worth $1.2bn
From correspondents in Vatican City, 11 jul, 2003
"The Vatican's real estate is worth about 700 million euro ($1.21 billion), not including its priceless art treasures, (according to) Ivan Ruggiero, the Holy See's chief accountant.
[ from http://www.thesundaymail.news.com.au/common
Of course, the value of the real estate holding was calculated without taking into account its real value on the market," Ruggiero said. And of course, the vast artistic holding of the "Holy See" was not taken into account, since it is a priceless and non-commercial holding," he added. (Because of it being "priceless, the value of the art treasures has been listed as "One Euro").
St Peter's Basilica ranks in the latter category, beyond market values."
The museums of the Vatican are filled with artwork by Giotto, Caravaggio, Michaelangelo, Leonardo, and Raphael among others. The libraries of the Vatican hold ancient manuscripts of the Bible and other literature – in some cases the only copy of a certain work. The buildings of the Vatican, especially St. Peter’s Basilica are ornamented with gold, silver, precious stones, and fine marble.What would be the value of these treasures? According to its official books, all of the artwork and the ornate, grand buildings (including the Sistine Chapel) are valued at 1 euro (which has gone up in a value slightly since it began as 1 U.S. dollar). That's the Vatican's way of saying "priceless", "mind-boggling" and "not for sale".
How could anyone doubt that the "Supreme Pontiffs" who were carried around in this sumptuous carriage, were the authentic representatives of Jesus of Nazareth, who (according to Matthew and Luke)
said: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head."
John the Baptist explained that in order to be saved, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise" (Luke 3:11)
Every once in a while a Pope emerges whose conscience is bothered by the extravagance of his church's wealth. One such pope was John Paul the First, who once revealed in a public audience in 1978:
“. . . this morning, I flushed my toilet with a solid gold lever edged with diamonds and at this very moment, bishops and cardinals are using a bathroom on the second floor of the papal palace which trappings, I am told, would draw more than fifty million dollars at auction . . . Believe me, one day, we who live in opulence, while so many are dying because they have nothing, will have to answer to Jesus as to why we have not carried out His instruction, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself.’ We, the clergy of the Church together with our congregations, who substitute gold and pomp and ceremony in place of Christ’s instruction, who judge our masquerade of singing His praises to be more precious than human life, will have the most to explain.”
"Avoiding the pomp and pageantry that traditionally surrounded the installation of a pontiff, he took his office in a small private setting witnessed by the minimum number of Church prelates required and by his family and close friends, including the housekeeper who had served him so faithfully at Vittorio Veneto. Outside, a huge crowd, which had filled St. Peter's Square, kept its eyes watchfully on the balcony anxiously awaiting his first blessing as pontiff. But no one appeared; Luciani had chosen not to display himself from the royal balcony as all the others had done before him. Rather, he had chosen to walk among them.
In taking his place as the leader of the Roman Catholic Church with far less ceremony than that which had accompanied his installation as a common bishop twenty years earlier, he had begun to demolish the majestic image of the papacy. He refused to be crowned with the gold and jewel encrusted St. Stephen's Crown, which had been the focal point of previous coronations. In fact, there was no coronation at all. . . His peers, the cardinals, the crown princes of the Church, felt much of their own regency endangered. Whereas the rank-and-file and the hierarchy of the Church saw in the St. Stephen Crown a symbol of royalty, Luciani saw something much different. He saw in it the right to a good and healthy life for a thousand children who would otherwise starve to death, and that's exactly what he intended to do with it.
In his first executive action, he ordered a complete review of the Church's finances, including a tally of all of its worldwide liquid assets. In fact John Paul, who had a background in finance, participated in the internal audit of the Vatican Bank himself. . . About this same time, Luciani invited a number of art dealers to Rome for the purpose of obtaining appraisals of some of the art treasures of the Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. It is also known that during his short reign he permitted a large real estate firm from Milan to survey the sprawling papal estate at the Castel Gandolfo on the outskirts of Rome. The Castel Gandolfo housed not only the papal summer residence but included four other majestic palaces and gardens that were enjoyed by European cardinals and bishops when vacationing there. Actually it was a luxury resort city in itself. It was quite obvious from the beginning that John Paul intended to make Mother Church heed Christ's most prolific testimony, " If thou he perfect, sell all that thou hast and give to the poor. "
Luciani could not bring himself to accept the immense wealth of the Church and that he, himself, as its leader would live in luxury surrounded by priceless art and architecture and jewels and gold and feather pillows, while children in Africa and other parts of the world were literally starving to death. And it anguished him much that it was the Church's position on birth control that was the reason why they were starving to death.
. . .(Pope John Paul I) " reduced in half the substantial bonus that Vatican cardinals receive upon the election of a new pope. This seemed to be a forewarning to his eventually reducing the salaries of Vatican cardinals, which at that time was the equivalent of what is a hundred ten thousand pre-tax dollars today; spending money for the cardinals as all of their living expenses were paid for by the Church, most of them living in the lap of luxury. Something that Luciani's successor John Paul 11 believed in as he raised Vatican cardinal salaries by eighteen percent immediately after his election, which action drew the comment from a leftist cardinal, "It is almost as if it had been part of the deal.
Also, it was well known throughout Europe that upon becoming Patriarch of Venice, Luciani had reduced his living quarters to a small four room apartment in the rear of the fifth floor of the patriarch palace and had converted most of the remaining part of the building to quarters for unwed mothers. There was considerable apprehension among field cardinals that they might end up sharing their sprawling mansions and palaces with the homeless and the poor."
(from pp. 116-118 of "Murder in the Vatican", the non-fiction book about the suspicious deaths of most of the Catholic Church's high-ranking Liberal leaders in 1978, which led to the elevation of the ultra-Conservative papacies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI.)
If you would like to know how and why Pope John Paul I, perhaps the most Liberal pope in the Roman Catholic Church's 2000 year history, may have been murdered just 33 days into his papacy, ( to make room for good old-fashioned conservatives like the popes below, see