13 Unusual Facts about the Quirinal Palace

The oratory of Pope Paul V (17th century)Quirinale Palace

1. The pope could attend mass from a secret room

Within the wall dividing the Pauline Chapel (Cappella Paolina) and the rooms of the pontiff's apartment, there is a small oratory which allowed Pope Paul V to attend mass privately through a window, without being seen.

Through a small window, made during the pontificate of Alexander VII, the pontiff could look directly at the altar.

View of the access door to the Chapel of the AnnunciationQuirinale Palace

2. A secret door hides one of the jewels of the palace

In the Tapestry Room (Sala degli Arazzi) there is a hidden sliding door, which blends in perfectly with the sumptuous mirrored decoration. 

The Hall of the TapestriersQuirinale Palace

When opened, visitors can see the Chapel of the Annunciation, isolated testimony of the time of Paul V and the artistic jewel of Guido Reni.

View of the Quirinale GardensQuirinale Palace

3. For a period of time, the gardens were converted into a vegetable garden

Pope Innocent XII introduced spiritual rigor and a charitable emphasis in the running of the Quirinal Gardens (Giardini del Quirinale): he had many flowers dug up and replaced with vegetables, and, every day, two large carts took them as a donation to the homes for the needy in Rome.

In response to those that objected saying that the flowers helped to purify the air in the garden and shouldn't be removed, the pope replied “the lovely smell of charity is more effective, and actually prevents bad air better than the smell of all the flowers in the world.”

Service parts on a partially blue background, plate (1769) by Royal manufacture of SèvresQuirinale Palace

4. The mischievous dedication to the new mistress of King Louis XV

Among the valuable porcelain stored in the Crockery room (Vasella) of the Quirinale, there is a plate which has a curious dedication hidden among its painted decorations.

Service parts on a partially blue background, detail of plate (1769) by Royal manufacture of SèvresQuirinale Palace

A colorful bird has a note in its beak which reads "to Madame du Barry."

It is possibly an homage by the painter Tandart, who designed the decoration, to King Louis XV's new mistress, whose beauty must have caught the attention of the artist.

Pauline ChapellQuirinale Palace

5. The Quirinale has been the site of the conclave on four occasions

In September 1823, it was decided that the conclave would be held in the Pauline Chapel of the Quirinale for the first time, since the Vatican was under threat from an epidemic of malarial fever.

The first pontiff elected at the Quirinale was Leo XII, followed by Pius VIII, Gregory XVI, and Pius IX, the last to have lived in the palace.

To avoid external influences on the election of the pope, the two ends of the present Quirinale Street (Via del Quirinale) were closed, the palace blinds were shut, and the window of the Loggia of Blessings (Loggia delle Benedizioni) was bricked up.

The unmistakable sign that the election had occurred was the fall of the brick wall.

The labyrinth in the gardens of the Quirinal PalaceQuirinale Palace

6. There is a labyrinth in the Giardini del Quirinale

In 1839, a large oval labyrinth was created in the garden. It's made from tall box hedges which were planted under the windows of the palace's east wing.

On the turret in front of the labyrinth, a terrace was created from where it was possible to look out and see the confusion of the guests as they negotiated its twisting paths.

View of the Rustic Fountain in the Boschetto of the Quirinale gardensQuirinale Palace

7. The Rustic Fountain has hidden water jets

The mosaic floor of the Rustic Fountain (La Fontana Rustica) in the gardens is also a fountain itself: the tiles hide jets which trap visitors in the center of the emblem.

A sonnet by Giuseppe Gioachino Belli describes how Pope Gregory XVI enjoyed accompanying a prelate to the fountain, suddenly switching on the jets from the floor so that he got soaking wet.

Grand gala carriage known as "Egyptian (1819) by Giacomo Pregliasco (progettista), Amedeo Demonte (carrozziere), Giuseppe Bonzanigo (sculture lignee), Luigi Dughé (bronzista)Quirinale Palace

8. From carnival to funeral: the Egyptian carriage

The Quirinale houses an Egyptian carriage. It was initially built for the Turin carnival in 1819 but it was subsequently used for solemn funeral transport of the Savoy royals, after the original color was changed from ivory to black

Candy-maker machineryQuirinale Palace

9. The candy machine

In the Crockery room (Vasella) of the Quirinale, there is an old machine of the Savoy period which was used for making candies.

The Great Hall of the CuirassiersQuirinale Palace

10. The skating rink and tennis court

The Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (Il Salone dei Corazzieri) went through a period of decay due to its curious use during the Savoy period.

A few years ago, during some restoration work, a tennis ball was discovered behind the tympanum above the entranceway to the Pauline Chapel.

In 1912, the Savoys converted the largest room of the Quirinale into an indoor tennis court.

It was also previously used as a skating rink for the amusement of the younger Savoy royals.

Detail of the hydraulic organQuirinale Palace

11. The Quirinale has a hydraulic organ still in working order

The Quirinale's 16th-century Organ Fountain (Fontana dell'Organo) houses an organ which plays through the movement of the water.

View of the Organ Fountain (1596)Quirinale Palace

In 2004, after a series of conservation work of the entire complex, a concert was organized there for the first time since the unification of Italy.

Bird ringing activities in the Castelporziano estateQuirinale Palace

12. In flight from Lazio to Russia

A woodcock travelled over 3,500 km (2,174 m) from Lazio to Russia, to the border of Mongolia.

We know this thanks to the activities of ringing organizations, including that of the Presidential Estate of Castelporziano.

A marking technique is used, which enables the reconstruction of the starting point, stopping points, and destination of birds, providing valuable detailed information to be able to protect them better.

The hatching of the Caretta caretta turtlesQuirinale Palace

13. New births on the Castelporziano beach

During the night between 29 and 30 August 2021, 61 turtles of the Caretta caretta species were born on the beach of the Presidential Estate of Castelporziano.

The hatching is an unprecedented event for the beaches of the Roman coast.

On this stretch of coast, in fact, the egg-laying of this rare and discreet marine reptile had never been reported before.

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