Apostolic Palace

Apostolic Palace | Vatican | Residence of the Pope

What is the Apostolic Palace? 

Situated in Vatican City, to the northeast of St. Peter’s Basilica, is the Apostolic Palace is known as the official residence of the reigning pope. Not to be confused the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, the former summer palace of the Pope; the Apostolic Palace is the formal residence of the Pope. The palace comprises over 1000 rooms, excluding which there are several Papal Apartments, the Vatican Library, a few Catholic Church’s government offices as well as numerous private and public chapels among other buildings. 

Apart from being the Pope’s formal home, the Apostolic Palace consists of several administrative offices which are used to administer the function of the Vatican State. Perhaps the most important part of the Pope’s home is the fact that it has become a tourist-facing component in Rome. The several gardens, fishponds, attractive museums, library, and natural conservatories, to name a few, are amongst the few outstanding features that the Palace is known for and is a spot to be explored. The palace is also otherwise known as the Papal Palace, the Vatican Palace, the Vatican Palace, and also the Palace of the Vatican. 

Plan Your Visit to the Apostolic Palace

Apostolic Palace Timings

You can visit the attractions of the Apostolic Palace between 8.30 AM and 4.30 PM. The Vatican is not functional on Sundays. 

Best Time To Visit

  • Off-seasons are a very good time to visit, with less heat and no chaos. 
  • Wednesdays are quite packed at the Vatican Palace as a lot of tourists head to attend an audience with the Pope. But it is a great time to visit the museums. 
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Apostolic Palace Location

The Palace is situated within the Vatican City walls.

  • By Train: From the Roma Termini station take the RE 12524 towards Civitavecchia or RE 4134 towards Pisa Centrale and alight at St. Pietro.
  • By Bus: Take bus 40 or 64 from Roma Termini. Bus 40 stops at Piazza Pia, and bus 64 stops at Terminal Gianicolo or Holy Spirit Hospital.
  • By Metro: Take Line A to the Ottaviano-S. Pietro station. From here, it’s just a 5-minute walk to St. Peter’s Square.
  • By Tram: Take line number 19 to Piazza del Risorgimento.
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Vatican Tickets
  • Standard Entry Tickets: With these tickets, you can enjoy access to the Vatican Museums & the Sistine Chapel.
  • Skip-the-line Tickets: Bypass long queues and enter the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel with these tickets. Depending on the ticket, you might even enjoy access to St. Peter’s Basilica.
  • Guided Tours: guided tour will allow you to skip the lines with an expert guide.
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Apostolic Palace Rules
  • They follow a strict dress code. If you are not dressed appropriately, you will be denied entry.
  • Video cameras, umbrellas, banners, signs, and sharp objects like knives, are not allowed inside.
  • Phones must be kept in silent mode. The use of phones is forbidden in the Sistine Chapel.
  • Visitors are allowed to take photographs for personal and domestic use only. Photography is prohibited in the Sistine Chapel
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Book Tickets to Apostolic Palace in Vatican

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Structure of the Apostolic Palace

Arranged around the Courtyard of Sixtus V, the Apostolic Palace is a series of self-contained buildings consisting of a recognized outer structure. 

Apostolic Palace

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is the best known amongst the Palace chapels and is named in honor of Sixtus IV. The Chapel is well-known for being a venue for the gathering of the College of Cardinals, used for the election of each successive Pope. Here, the cardinals elect a successor to the traditionally first pope, St. Peter, who is traditionally buried in the crypts near St. Peter’s Church. The Chapel is famous for its frescoes by various Renaissance artists during the era. 

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Apostolic Palace

Raphael Rooms

The Raphael Rooms are a suite of reception rooms in the Apostolic Palace, which is now a portion of the Vatican Museums, in Vatican City. These rooms are popular for their frescoes, done by a team of artists who were guided under Raphael.  Commonly known as the Stanze, situated above Alexander’s Borgia Apartments, the Raphael Rooms were the apartments intended for Pope Julius II. He decided to redecorate the interiors of the rooms entirely, possibly to outshine the apartments of his predecessor. 

Apostolic Palaces

Borgia Apartments

The Borgia Apartments consists of a suite of rooms that were for the personal usage of Pope Alexander VI. The apartments were decorated lavishly with frescoes and used iconic themes from medieval encyclopedias, to add meaning and to celebrate the divine origins of Borgias. 

The rooms are a part of the Vatican Library and Museums. Currently, these rooms are used for the Vatican Collection of Modern Religious Art, by Pope Paul VI in 1973. 

Apostolic Palace

Clementine Hall

The Clementine Hall, also called the Sala Clementina, was created in the 16th century in honor of the third Pope, Pope Clement I, by Pope Clement VIII. Just like the other apartments, the Clementine Hall also consists of numerous large collections of artifacts and frescos, that make the Clementine Hall a famous structure in itself.  It is used by the pope as a reception room and sometimes as a site of various ceremonies and rituals. It is in the Clementine Hall that the body of the pope lies for private visitation by officials of the Vatican until it is moved to St. Peter's Basilica or the Basilica of San Giovanni.

Who lives in the Vatican Palace?

Apostolic Palace

Wondering who lives within the walls of the Apostolic Palace? The Apostolic Palace, commonly known as the Vatican Palace is the home to the Pope of the Catholic Church. Apart from them, many officials and members are also seen working within the Palace for several religious jobs related to the Church and various administrative functions of the Vatican. 

Can Visitors Go Inside the Vatican Palace? 

You have a range of sites to see both inside and out of the Apostolic Palace. With numerous tours going ahead daily, you are allowed to see some of the Palace’s stunning rooms while your guide gives you an insight into the purpose and history attached to each room. 

While touring the Vatican Museums, you will be privy to some parts of the Apostolic Palace such as the Sistine Chapel, Raphael Rooms, and Borgia Apartments. Other portions of the Papal Palace such as the Sala Regia (Regal Room) and Cappella Paolina are closed to the public. 

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Paintings Inside Vatican Palace

Apostolic Palace

The paintings present in the Sistine Chapel are the most prominent works of art in the Apostolic Palace. You can spot The Vision of The Cross (in the Hall of Constantine) and The Fire in the Borgo in the Raphael Rooms. The Pinacoteca room in the Apostolic Palace has in itself close to 16 rooms that are filled with art. The Crucifixion of St. Peter in the Pinacoteca room is a very famous one amongst the lot. 

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Apostolic Palace of Vatican | Site of Administrative Functions of the Holy See

Apostolic Palace

Apart from being home to the Pope, the Apostolic Palace serves many functions. The Palace is used for performing several administrative meetings of the Vatican in terms of political, social, and economic aspects as a State. The palace has within it beautiful gardens, museums, a library, and more. Hence, this structure has become one of the top tourist attractions in the city of Rome, Italy. 

Due to its dual nature as being the home to the pope as well as the site of administrative functions of the Holy See, it has assumed the same stature as the White House. It is a space that exercises various economic, political, and social responsibilities as a State. The term Apostolic Palace has, hence, come to be used as a metonym for the papacy itself, and not just the physical building. 

History of the Apostolic Palace

Construction of the Papal Palace in Vatican City took place mainly between 1471 and 1605. In the fifth Pope Symmachus built a papal palace close to the Old St. Peter's Basilica so that it could serve as an alternative residence to the Lateran Palace, which was their primary residence for a thousand years. Pope Eugene III sponsored the construction of a second fortified palace. This palace was extensively modified under Pope Innocent III in the twelfth century.

In 1447, Pope Nicholas V razed the ancient fortified palace of Eugene III to erect a new building, thus giving birth to the current Apostolic Palace. Over the next 150 years, the Papal Palace went through major additions and decorations. The construction of the present version of the Apostolic palace began on 30 April 1589 under Pope Sixtus V. The work was completed by his successors, Pope Urban VII, Pope Innocent XI, and Pope Clement VIII. In the 20th century, Pope Pius XI built a monumental art gallery and museum entrance. 

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All Your Questions About the Apostolic Palace Answered

Q. What is the Apostolic Palace?

A. The massive Apostolic Palace is the Pope’s place of residence. It's also home to various apartments, museums, offices, public and private chapels, to name a few amongst the lot. The Palace is inclusive of rooms such as the Sistine Chapel as well as Raphael’s room famous for its paintings and architecture. The Palace serves as a space to perform the religious and administrative functions of the city.

Q. Where is the Apostolic Palace located?

A. The Apostolic Palace, also known as Vatican Palace, is the home to the head of the Catholic Church, the Pope, and is located in Vatican City.

Q. Who lives inside the Apostolic Palace?

A. Apart from the Pope who resides in the Palace, the Vatican Palace has a large number of officials who work for the church regarding several religious and administrative functions of the Vatican.

Q. Can I enter the Apostolic Palace?

A. Yes, around 20 rooms of the Apostolic Palace are accessible by the public. Visitors can get an insight into the Popes’ lifestyle over the last 500 years.

Q. How far is the Apostolic Palace from St Peter's square?

A. The Papal Palace is hardly two minutes away from St. Peter’s Square.

Q. When was the Apostolic Palace built?

A. The construction of the Apostolic Palace (the Vatican or Papal Palace) in the Vatican City, was done between 1471 and 1605.

Q. Why was the Apostolic Palace built?

A. Nicholas V commenced the construction of the Vatican Palace, to serve as an alternative to their then-residence, the Lateran Palace.