The Pauline Chapel, Seat of the Conclave in the 19th Century

Pope Paul V's plan was to make the Quirinal Palace an alternative seat to the Vatican palaces: he therefore ordered the construction of the Pauline Chapel with the same size as the Sistine Chapel

By Quirinale Palace

Institutional visit

Pauline ChapellQuirinale Palace

Size

Entry to the Pauline Chapel is through the monumental entranceway from the Great Hall of the Cuirassiers (Salone dei Corazzieri). The chapel takes its name from Pope Paul V who commissioned the work to Carlo Maderno in 1615.

The room is around 42 meters (46 yards) long, 13 meters (14 yards) wide and 20 meters (22 yards) high.

The history

From 1823, the Pauline Chapel was used as the seat of four conclaves. The first Pope elected there was Leo XII; the last was Pius IX who, after the capture of Rome on September 20, 1870, had to leave the palace to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of Italy.

The marriage of Prince Umberto and Marie-José of Belgium also took place there in 1930.

Vault of the Paoline Chapel (1616) by Martino FeraboscoQuirinale Palace

The Vaulted Ceiling

The original intention of Paul V was to design a pictorial decoration as in the Sistine Chapel.

The project waned and, in 1616, the vaulted ceiling was adorned with a stunning white and gold stucco, entrusted to Martino Ferabosco who was inspired by the ceiling in the Regal Room (Sala Regia) in the Vatican.

As well as covering the vaulted ceiling, the stuccoes also adorn the window compartments with figures of angels and places, and buildings related to the pontificate of Paul V.

Angel with host, chalice and book of the Apocalypse (1616) by Martino FeraboscoQuirinale Palace

In the center of the vaulted ceiling, there is the Angelo con ostia, calice e libro dell'Apocalisse (angel with host, chalice and Book of Revelation), also made of gold and white stucco.

The angel replaces the original emblem of Paul V.

Choir of the Pauline ChapelQuirinale Palace

The Choir

On the right-hand wall, there is an imposing marble balcony, also from the 17th century: it forms the Choir and is where the choir singers would stand for sung masses. It is coated by precious colored marble.

Altar of the Pauline ChapelQuirinale Palace

Painted Murals

The painted murals are however more recent. They were completed in 1818, in little over a month after being commissioned by Pope Pius VII, after he returned to the Quirinal Palace in 1814, at the end of the Napoleonic occupation.

The decoration is the combined work of 11 painters and features faux architecture with recesses containing faux statues of the Apostles, the Evangelists and St. Paul.

Altarpiece Tapestry

A French tapestry made by the Gobelins manufactory hangs above the altar. It was woven in 1824, on a model by Abel de Pujol of 1817, and features L'ultima predica di Santo Stefano (the last sermon by Saint Stephen).

The piece was donated by Charles X of France to Pope Leo XII in 1826 and arrived at the Quirinal Palace in 1849.

Concerts in the Pauline Chapel

In recent years, during the opening of the Quirinal Palace, the Pauline Chapel has hosted a concert to the public every Sunday which is broadcast live on the radio.

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