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:

Art, Monday Gallery September 21, 2015, 1:07 pm

A Kinetic Strandbeest sculpture

From the May 2008 issue

Gardens of stone

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

December 2016

Prose by Any Other Name

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The New Red Scare

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Separated at Birth

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Priest in the Trees

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Lightness

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

With Child

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Article
With Child·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Photograph (detail) by Lara Shipley
Article
Swat Team·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"As we shall see, for the sort of people who write and edit the opinion pages of the Post, there was something deeply threatening about Sanders and his political views."
Illustration (detail) by John Ritter
Article
Escape from The Caliphate·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"When Matti invited me on a tour of the neighborhood, I asked about security. 'The message has already been passed to ISIS that you’re here,' he said. 'But don’t worry. I guarantee I could bring even you in and out of the Islamic State.'"
Photograph (detail) by Alice Martins
Article
In This One·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"She glanced across the waiting room at a television playing a birth-control ad and laughed darkly. 'Jesus, Lord, it would be so nice if someone just pushed me down a flight of stairs.'"
Illustration (detail) by Shonagh Rae
Article
“Don’t Touch My Medicare!”·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Medicare’s popularity, however, comes with almost no understanding of what the program is and how it works."
Illustration (detail) by Nate Kitch

Number of tombstones in Tombstone, Arizona:

792

Electrofishing on the Irrawaddy River deters dolphins from their habit of assisting fishermen.

Trump tweeted that “millions of people” had illegally cast ballots in last month’s presidential election, and the Washington Post identified four cases of voter fraud across the country.

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

HARPER’S FINEST

Who Goes Nazi?

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

By

"It is an interesting and somewhat macabre parlor game to play at a large gathering of one’s acquaintances: to speculate who in a showdown would go Nazi. By now, I think I know. I have gone through the experience many times—in Germany, in Austria, and in France. I have come to know the types: the born Nazis, the Nazis whom democracy itself has created, the certain-to-be fellow-travelers. And I also know those who never, under any conceivable circumstances, would become Nazis."

Subscribe Today