Aula delle Benedizioni (Benediction Hall)

Foto digitale

Foto digitale

The Aula delle Benedizioni (Benediction Hall) is a large monumental space located above the narthex (lobby area in the nave) of the Vatican Basilica, which takes up the dimensions of the architectural plan (30 x 30) and is divided by fluted Corinthian pilasters supporting the barrel coffered vaulting. Its longer sides are marked by large windows that look out to the east toward St. Peter’s Square and on the opposite side to the inside of the Basilica.
For centuries, the front area facing the the Square is the main view overlooking the Vatican to the city of Rome and traditionally it is from here that the pontiffs face and are acclaimed by the crowds of visitors and pilgrims during the most important Church occasions. In the 15th century, a loggia was constructed in the front area to be used for papal blessings and t his function was featured in many of the projects for the Church over the century that witnessed the current building reconstruction. In 1607 Paul V (1605-21) commissioned the architect Carlo Maderno (1556-29) to complete St. Peter’s Basilica and the plan called for the demolition of what remained of the Constantine-era aisle and the front portico, on which was superimposed a new loggia – the Aula delle Benedizioni (Benediction Hall) that we see today. Closed on the two shorter sides between two buildings that were first designated to hold two lateral bell towers designed by Bernini and interrupted in 1645, the hall is both in direct communication with the Basilica and the Apostolic Palace by way of the Pauline Chapel, the Sala Regia (Regal Room), the Ducal Hall and the Sistine Chapel. The walls, which grandly display the six hills and star of the coat of arms of Pope Alexander VII Chigi (1655-67), support a great coffered vault decorated with rosettes, conserved over the centuries through interventions that have partly changed the original appearance of the room. In the last century, the coloring of the surfaces was greatly modified. Recently, the stucco decorations have been compromised; this was caused by aging materials and the infiltration of rainwater from the roof terrace overlooking the Basilica. The consequent safety of the hall’s ceiling has drastically limited the practicability of the environment. Restoration of the floors and the elimination of the problematic water infiltration allowed the possibility of repairing the lost stucco elements, thus returning the room as the ceremonial setting and use for which it was designed. The restoration of this large hall as representation for papal ceremonies will re-consign to the Vatican one of its most important monumental spaces, a privileged place for encounters between the Holy Father and the faithful.