Last year the Pavilion of the Carriages underwent a dramatic transformation thanks to the direction of its new curator. This exhibition, which was inaugurated on April 19, 1973 by Paul VI, has grown over the years and now holds an enlarged, beautified, and enriched collection. It now features a lighting system with the latest LED technology and an enhanced exhibition that utilizes revised educational methods.
This renovation was performed in order to properly conserve the pieces that make up the extraordinary collection of Catholic heritage housed within the pavilion. The project was also inspired by the desire to share these pieces with the world, reaching the heart of every visitor, expert and novice alike, without elitist digressions or useless technicalities. In the past, the magnificent Berlina di Gran Gala, constructed in Rome in 1826 by Leone XII, stood as the focal point of the Pavilion of the Carriages alongside the new ceremonial carriages that belonged to the Popes, or the Princes, of the Holy Roman Church. Later, some large paintings were added to the collection; these depict the papacy’s mobility throughout history as the Church’s seat of power moved to a number of different locations. A series of splendid marble and bronze busts depicting the pontiffs from Pius VI through Saint John Paul II were also installed, corresponding with the vehicles on display. The Pavilion of the Carriages collection also contains sedan chairs and the splendid court vestments of lay dignitaries who accompanied the Popes during their voyages. Until recently, only the Graham Paige 837 from 1929, the Citroën Lictoria C6 from 1930, the Mercedes 460 Nürburg limousine designed by Ferdinand Porsche, one Mercedes 300 Sel, and three Popemobiles (Land Rover, Toyota and Mercedes 230 GE) belonged to the popemobile section. In the last two years, the Fiat Campagnola linked to the 1981 assassination attempt of Pope John Paul II in the Piazza San Pietro, the last Maggiolino produced by Volkswagen in Mexico in 2003, and a Renault 4 given to Papa Francesco in 2012 were added to the small automobile fleet of the Vatican Museums.
In order to enhance the entrance to the Pavilion of the Carriages, the construction of a covering structure and a wide elevator has been proposed. The entrance to the Pavilion of the Carriages is situated entirely outdoors and, thus, exposed to the elements. The only way to access it is by descending four flights of stairs, which poses extreme difficulty to handicapped persons. We hope to remedy this problem by installing an ele- vator that would allow people to enter the exhibit without having to take the stairs. The proposed solution will require that the exhibition space be doubled in order to accommodate the new covering structure that will occupy part of the pre-existing flowerbed in the direction of the Gate of Gregory XVI. A glass window structure that will permit an unobscured view of the Vatican Gardens will span 475 square meters (totalling 29,80 m in length and 16,50 in width). The exhibition space will have an area of approximately 200 square meters and will serve as a space for temporary exhibits, conventions, and other events. To allow for the enlargement, it will be necessary to incorporate, into the new architectural arrangement, the cypress tree that currently grows in the adjacent flowerbed. The tall Mediterranean pines, however, will not be touched by the construction. To accentuate the formal dynamism of the flat covering, this zone one will be decentered and made asymmetric with the perimeter of the glass walls. The result will be two cornices and a platform along the principal façade and the left side, where entrances for the public will be opened. Two entrances will allow access to the stairs or the new room, and a third will lead directly to the rear.
The layout of the trees of the Vatican Gardens, is mirrored in the steel shaft that will hold the elevator, furthering the conceptual parallelism with the nature that penetrates the new architecture. This architectural element allows integral structural systems, such as pairs of round steel pillars, to be incorporated into the interior. These are meant to sustain the parallel beams set in place that support the entire extension, leaving the pillars unburdened. The paving in the internal space will be similar to historical travertine floors with the perimeter bordered in peperine and supported by the glass walls. Meanwhile, the interior false ceiling will be made of metal panels, where cutting-edge LED lights will be installed. Finally, it is important to note that the entire project design was conceived with the express intention of remaining faithful to the elegant austerity that this exhibition has always evoked
Dr. Sandro Barbagallo
After studying at the Special School of the Vatican Private Archives and earning his degree in History of Art from the University of Siena, Sandro Barbagallo participated in the creation of exhibitions and edited monographs focused on the art of Dutch and French Artists of the 19th Century, such as Matisse, Manet, and Bonard. He has worked with the Tribunal for Lost and Stolen Antiquities in Rome. Since 2008, he has written art criticism for the L’Osservatore Romano. Barbagalo also serves as Vatican News Correspondant for Il Giornale dell’Arte. He has worked for the Direction of the Vatican Museums as Curator of the Historical Collections Department since 2012. In this roll he has overseen the upgrade of the Carriage Pavilion and the construction of the Portrait Gallery of the Popes in Castel Gondolfo. He is a member of the Scientific Committee of Roman Work for the Preservation of Faith and the Provision of New Churches, a committee formed to rethink the design of churches. In July 2015, he was named Scientific Advisor for the Redevelopment of the Museum of the Treasury at the Basilica of St. John Lateran.