The Vatican Gardens comprise one of the most unique green spaces in the world considering its historical and spiritual significance. Spread over 58 acres, they take up about half of the Vatican City territory. It now serves not only as the gardens of Pope Francis but also Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI who walks there regularly .
The Vatican Gardens have been a place of quiet meditation for the Popes, ever since 1279 when Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277-1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace. Within the boundary of his protective walls, he planted an orchard, lawn, and garden. The gardens, “Palazzetto del Belvedere,” and courtyards of the Vatican Museums are located on the same grounds as Nero’s Circus, on which the very first early Christians were martyred and St. Peter was crucified. Tradition holds that, upon the site of the Vatican Gardens, Saint Helena spread earth brought from Golgotha to symbolically unite the blood of Christ with that shed by thousands of early Christians who died in the persecutions of Nero.
Today’s Vatican Gardens stretch across nearly 58 acres, covering over half of Vatican territory. This oasis includes lush gardens filled with winding paths, vibrant flower beds and topiaries, green lawns, groves of massive oaks, and a 7.4 acre forest, as well as ancient fountains, sculptures, and grottoes proclaiming devotion to the Madonna, St. Joseph, St. Peter, and other saints.
The deeper meaning behind the Gardens is that they represent the epitome of harmony and peace in nature, complete with birds, fountains, flora, and fauna. They remind us of our original status as creatures destined to be in harmony with God, nature, and one another. “And the Lord God planted a garden eastward in Eden; and there he put the man whom he had formed,” writes Genesis 2:8. This special place reminds us of the ideal harmony we seek to build on this earth. These idyllic parks make us think of our eternal home where every fear will be swept away and all of creation will unite in the shared experience of paradise.
The Vatican grounds represent one of the greatest garden realms in the world because of the landscape, which was formed on hallowed ground and sewn with faith and hope. Many popes have prayed surrounded by the shrine of verdant silence. Pope John XXIII often reflected in the gardens as he prepared and lead the church through the Second Vatican Council. John Paul II often invited young people to pray the rosary with him at the Lourdes shrine atop the Vatican Gardens. Pope Benedict XVI was also known to pray his rosary here on a daily basis.
Restoration of the full collection of artwork located within the Papal Gardens has never before been performed, making this a historic undertaking.
Both the Marble and the Metal Restoration Laboratories, along with the General Maintenance team of the Vatican, worked together to monitor the state of conservation of the Garden’s many artifacts. In order to do so, representatives visited various gardens around Europe, including the gardens at Versailles, to learn what methods their restoration and maintenance teams employed. Simultaneously, an inventory and specific report was made on each of the over 600 pieces in the gardens in order to determine the following information on each piece: age of the artifact, constituent materials, former interventions of reassembly or inserting of new stone parts, presence of metal pins, location within the Gardens, and degree of exposure to the elements. An unfortunate state of degradation affects a large number of the sculptures, and their general lack of maintenance has become visibly apparent. The product of this careful study now fills a three volume work and suggests an urgent restoration project to conserve all the artifacts in the Gardens.
It is estimated that the full conservation project of the entire inventory could cost close to €5 million. The NY Board has approved allocating €1 million from the Carlson estate to this project in order to begin the work. A commemorative plaque will be placed in the gardens to Mr and Mrs Carlson and the New York Chapter