Postcard — March 4, 2013, 1:51 pm

Sedi Vacanti

The empty palaces of Rome

Photographs © 2013 Lena Herzog

Left: Former residence of Benedict XVI, Vatican City. Center: Mute Swans of Peace, a porcelain sculpture by Boehm, presented in 1976 to Pope Paul VI by the Archdiocese of New York. Right: New residence of Benedict XVI under construction, Vatican City. Photographs © 2013 Lena Herzog. Please click here to see larger versions.

A feeling of suspense is hanging over the Eternal City. Italians at the moment are without a pope and without a functioning government. “These are crazy times, incredible,” says a former administrator of the presidential Quirinal Palace. “But we are Italians, and we’ve seen a lot throughout history.” His colleague in the palace gardens agrees. “We live in a place where every stone has a very long history,” she says. “Something will happen and all this will be resolved.”

A similar sense of uneasy equanimity extends to the Vatican. At the Apostolic Palace, the departing pope’s private apartments have been cordoned off with tape inscribed sede vacante (“vacant seat”); the outer doors have been bolted and tied with a red ribbon sealed with wax. Benedict XVI has retired to Castel Gandolfo, the papal summer residence, to await the election of his successor. The gardeners, unconcerned, continue toiling around Italy’s two sedi vacanti.

On the streets of Rome, all the clocks show different times. I used to think of this as a kind of unintentional conceptual art. Now it seems like the true reflection of a city where time is irrelevant.

Share
Single Page
undefined

More from Lena Herzog:

From the May 2008 issue

Gardens of stone

From the May 2008 issue

Untitled

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

May 2015

Black Hat, White Hat

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Beyond the Broken Window

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

In Search of a Stolen Fiddle

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Displaced in the D.R.

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Quietest Place in the Universe

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“Don sucked the last of his drink through his straw and licked his lips. 'The coast, to me, is more interesting than the valley.'”
Photograph by the author
Article
Fred Morton, who died this week in Vienna, at the age of 90, was a longtime contributor to Harper's Magazine and a good friend. "Othello's Son," which was listed as a Notable Essay in Best American Essays 2013, appeared in our September 2013 issue.
Photograph © Alex Gotfryd/CORBIS
Article
Beyond the Broken Window·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“By the time Bratton left the department, in 2009, Los Angeles had quietly become the most spied-on city in America.”
Illustration by Taylor Callery
Article
Displaced in the D.R.·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“How is it possible that my birth certificate is invalid if I was born here?”
Photograph by Pierre Michel Jean
Article
The Quietest Place in the Universe·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Gaitskell and his colleagues are approaching the revelation of a new order, a new universe, in which even light will be known differently, and darkness as well.”
Painting by Sebastiaan Bremer

Number of African countries with vaccination rates higher than that of the United States:

16

Iowa urologists reported that only a minor portion of locker-room teasing arises from “the presence of excess foreskin”; most teasing targets small penises.

A farmer in Surrey, England, was ordered by the Reigate and Banstead Borough Council to tear down his cannon-equipped castle, which he had built secretly and then concealed behind hay bales.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Subways Are for Sleeping

By

“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”

Subscribe Today