As walked up the Scala Regia (Royal Stairs) I thought with each step, "I'm here. I am in the Pope's house". The Scala Regia is a marvel because it wider at the bottom than at the top but it cannot be noticed. The difference in with gives the visitor the feeling that the staircase is longer than it actually it. Some people believe it was designed this way in order to intimidate people who were visiting the Pope. I don't know if it ever worked on heads of state, but it worked on me.
First View of the Sala RegiaWhen we reached the top of the Scala Regia, we entered the Sala Regia (Royal Hall). Cardinals O'Malley and Levada were greeting people in this room. The room is absolutely beautiful and the walls are covered with murals depicting various great events in Papal history.
Cardinal O'Malley greeting guests in the Sala RegiaSince we had already greeted Cardinal O'Malley and Cardinal Levada, we decided to bypass them and go to the Sala Pontificale, where Cardinal Dziwisz was greeting people. While that seemed like a good idea in theory, in reality was was a horrible idea. Even though we got there early, there were already so many people that the room was packed. I was surprised because all the other rooms were very empty. We did get into the room and waited nearly an hour before we gave.
The people waiting for Cardinal Dziwisz were by far the most exuberant group. They were singing and many people were carrying bouquets of flowers.
Unfortunately, because we spent so much time there, by the time we left the room, the rest of the palace was crowded. Because of that the number of pictures I could take was very limited. We should have enjoyed the empty rooms while we had the chance.
The Sala Ducale
We returned to the Sala Regia and looked at the many murals on the walls. The Sala Regia leads to the Sala Ducale. The Sala Ducale is a long and somewhat narrow room with a beautiful floor and very nice angels on the ceiling. Cardinals Montezomolo, and Vallini shared the large hall.
We returned to the Sala Ducale where Cardinal Montezomolo was being mostly ignored by the crowd in the room. I suspect that most of the people there had no clue who he was. Cardinal Montezomolo was Apostolic Nuncio many countries inculding Italy, Israel and Honduras. He is now the archpriest of the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls and was also the artist who created Pope Benedict's coat of arms. We decided to approach Cardinal Montezomolo who was very nice. I was surprised by how well he speaks English. Then we went to see Cardinal Vallini, who was on the other side of the room.
The Sala Ducale overlooks St. Peter's Square and St. Peter's Basilica. The view was beautiful. From there, I could see the many pilgrims walking around the square and the long lines of people waiting to enter the basilica.
From the Sala Ducale, we went to the Sala Paramenti. These two rooms, which are where the Holy Father vests prior to celebrating Mass at the Sistine Chapel, were occupied by Cardinal Caffarra and Cardinal Rode. The rooms were much too small for the large number of people there, so we were not able to really get in them. What I was able to see of the rooms was beautiful. The walls in the Sala Paramenti are covered with gorgeous tapestries.
We returned to the Sala Ducale and went up a few stairs to the Loggia di Giovanni da Udine. This long corridor overlooks the Cortile di San Damaso.
The ceiling of the Loggia of Giovanni da Udine
The view from the Loggia of Giovanni da Udine into the Cortile di San Damaso. The door you see is the entrance the Holy Father uses.
Ceiling of the Sala Pontificale
The crowd waiting for Cardinal Dziwisz