Domenica, 21 Ottobre 2018
ROME

Italy, Vatican to restore secret papal walkway

English
© ANSA

Rome, February 14 - Italy and the Vatican on
Thursday signed an agreement to complete the restoration of a
secret walkway used down the years as an escape passage for
popes and fictionally employed by the villains and heroes of Dan
Brown's blockbuster Angels and Demons
The deal was inked by Cardinal Giuseppe Bertello, head of
the Vatican City's 'governorate', and Italian Culture Minister
Lorenzo Ornaghi.
They said the Vatican Corridor, also known as the Passetto
del Borgo, would be "virtually completely open to visitors"
after the restoration.
The corridor, famous as the avenue of escape for Pope
Clement VIII during the 1527 Sack of Rome, has been partially
reopened in two stages, first in 1999 and then in 2005.
The last restoration made about two-thirds of it visitable.
"We expect it to become an even bigger tourist draw when
the restoration is over, while the passage will get much-needed
structural bolstering," Bertello and Ornaghi said.
Before its 1999 reopening, the Passetto had long been home
to tramps and a pathway for burglars, while during the Second
World War it was a hideout for anti-Fascist fugitives.
For the last seven years, in small groups and strictly by
reservation, tourists have had the thrill of following many, but
not all, of the footsteps of historical and fictional figures,
while also getting a rare peep onto one of the more atmospheric
'borghi', or medieval quarters, in Rome.
The covered corridor runs for 700m from the Vatican
palaces, through the heart of the medieval Borgo Pio nestling
in the lee of St.Peter's, to the riverside stronghold of
Castel Sant'Angelo, once the safest of papal fortresses.
Today the castle, built on the tomb of Roman Emperor
Hadrian, is one of Rome's prime tourist attractions.
The corridor was built in 1277 by Pope Nicholas III, on
top of walls originally put up by Pope Leo IV in 847-851 to
protect the Vatican from Saracens who had sailed their warships
as far as the mouth of the Tiber and swept in to sack the city.
After Nicholas, other popes added towers and
reinforcements, coating the outside of the corridor - or
Passetto del Borgo, as it known locally - with their emblems.
Until an expensive restoration that ended in 1999, the
inside of the corridor had remained a secret, except for a
select few with the right connections.
During the repair work, restorers found writings on the
walls left by anti-Fascists who fled into the Vatican during
the Second World War.
Later the Passetto became notorious as a home to tramps and
a convenient pathway for burglars to break into the houses in
Borgo Pio that are up against its walls.
One of the highlights for the new batch of visitors will
be to imagine that moment in 1527 when, after being persuaded
to reluctantly leave his grip on the papal throne, Pope
Clement came rushing down the corridor away from the fury of
Emperor Charles V's German mercenaries.
The Venetian ambassador of the time said he saw the
Medici pope "flit off like a white ghost," candle in hand, as
his Swiss guards held the foreign invaders at bay and died to
the last man.
But the pope got the last laugh, holding off the
invaders from Castel Sant' Angelo. During the siege, the
famous Florentine sculptor Benvenuto Cellini used his trusty
cross-bow to kill a French notable.
But that was not the first time the Passetto was used,
nor was it the last.
The first pope to flee along the walkway was Alexander
VI, the Borgia pope, in 1494, when Rome was invaded by an
earlier emperor.
Then, in 1870, after the fall of Rome signalled the loss
of the Vatican's last Italian possessions, Pius XI stamped
down it in disgust, refusing to have anything to do with the
newborn Italian state.

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