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Vatican City - The secrets of the Catholic Church's seat of power | DW Documentary

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Covering less than half a square kilometer, Vatican City may be small. But it’s still a place that exudes power and magnificence. The seat of the Pope, Vatican City is the focal point for 1.3 billion Catholics around the world. And it is a place shrouded in secrets.

In the 4th century AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine had a burial church built on the Vatican hill above the tomb of the Apostle Peter. This was the first Church of St. Peter. Over the centuries, the house of worship was repeatedly rebuilt and extended. But it wasn’t until the end of the 14th century that the papal seat of government was moved here, making it the center of the Papal States and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole.

St. Peter’s Basilica, which would go on to become the largest church in the world, took on its present form in the 16th and 17th centuries. But its construction was a technical conundrum, one that would become a fascinating adventure, with exciting twists and turns. For example, how to build a dome 42 meters in diameter, culminating at an altitude of over 110 meters?

Everywhere in the Vatican, architecture celebrates the papacy. And behind all of these wonders lie a multitude of unsuspected technical challenges. To paint the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo designed his own scaffolding. To optimize St. Peter's Square, Bernini imagined a highly original design capable of accommodating 300,000 faithful! Out of sight, an 800-meter secret passage was designed to allow the Pope to escape from the city. And, in order to store the Vatican's massive archives, an underground bunker was built under the courtyard of the museums.

In the magnificence of emblematic rooms, behind doors traditionally closed to the public and with the help of 3D images, you’ll discover the building secrets of a megastructure with a truly unique history: The Vatican.

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