Behind the scenes at the Vatican

David Gibson of Commonweal alerts readers to a two-hour special airing on the History Channel tonight, giving a behind-the-scenes look at life in the Vatican and some rare footage of Pope Benedict at home and at work:

The show provides an overview of the history of the Vatican, and focuses on everyday life in the city-state today, and how it all works, or doesn’t, as the case may be. A clip of the pope at work is here, and other elements that stuck in my mind were segments on science and faith with Jesuit astronomer Brother Guy Consolmagno and the Vatican’s finances with Cardinal Lajolo, the very approachable and witty administrator of Vatican City State. (One needs a sense of humor in that job.) I learned a heckuva lot, and wish we had two hours just on the archives, for example . . . .

Gibson also posts a video clip that already has me interested to see more. The pope’s private study! Benedict at the piano! Come on, that’s just cool. Check it out at 9 pm.

[video: 635×355]

Margaret Cabaniss


Margaret Cabaniss is the former managing editor of Crisis Magazine. She joined Crisis in 2002 after graduating from the University of the South with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She now blogs at

  • bill bannon

    in such a show is an overview of the quality level of his suppers and with whom and how many chefs involved….and whether they all take place in the apartment or elsewhere. With his recently refinished marble floors in the ten rooms and 28,000 book collection and grand piano, why go out unless the chefs are elsewhere in the building. But…..threre’s actually a little household living there in those ten rooms…not just him…so maybe he does leave to get space sometimes at an outdoor cafe in Rome accompanied by two Swiss Guards with their SIG pistols hidden discretely in their helmets…..or he goes without them but in disguise in a grey white beard wearing a Franciscan hooded thingy. I’ll put him and NCIS on the little TV on last channel….and pop back and forth with the remote
    ….if I start seeing Gibbs and Benedict in the other’s program, I’ll need to water down the Bourbon.

  • joanie

    Six minutes in to the program and we get the usual obsessions…did Jesus father a child, and, the “secret” archives (oo, secret). Two hours and many ads later, it will all be wrapped up for us in a neat and incisive package…

  • bill bannon

    I disliked that very “fathered a child” comment also… though it was preparatory to something they are planning to repeat on that topic soon and their marketing people stuck it in. There was much interesting data mixed with this annoying secrecy theme backed by the Rachmaninoff like music. I may dream of all those green wing chairs in the TV room which needs a decorator and a more in scale tv for the sitting distance. I was unaware of the Bin Laden tape…..and glad therefore that (probably consequently) the Swiss Guard had their H&K MP5 sub-machine guns upgraded to the MP7 and armor piercing round…..I’m sure for free by Heckler and Koch. I cried at John Paul II trying for 12 minutes to speak to the crowd while sick. Glad I watched an hour and a half straight
    though the sensational secrecy theme with the ? Rachmaninoff was so constant …..while ironically transparency was praised by Benedict in Caritas in Veritate. We here have a Drexel Commonwealth chair and the Vatican has a huge bunch of them which was unexpected. So glad they went light on the Borgia Pope…..though I think I read that they are going to have a mini series on him in the next year because he was the worst of very few really bad Popes. But that he was elected while being notorious, by the college of Cardinals does show that the Church of Luther’s youth was in fact bad news. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
    Glad I watched despite the sensational secrecy theme.

  • Margaret

    Joanie and Bill: I was only able to watch the first third of the program (I taped the rest for another time), but I agree that the “sensational secrecy theme” was pretty eye-rolling. The voiceover was so breathless about everything — “Most people don’t know what lies just beneath their feet in St. Peter’s Basilica!” Um, yes they do, and they tour it all the time.

    I’m sure they just thought they needed to spice things up a bit to grab the viewers’ attention; but once they got past those sensationalistic wind-ups, the information they presented really was interesting. I’m looking forward to watching the rest.

  • bill bannon

    It’s a good thing they didn’t get good looking, grey haired Keith Morrison from NBC to do the narration with his sing song suspicious story telling telling voice…..hopefully they won’t get him for the Borgia series….I can hear him already.

  • Margaret

    Bill: The Borgias is actually going to be a fictionalized drama series, not a History Channel-style program. From what I’ve seen of the show’s trailer, I don’t have much hope of it being any good.

  • bill bannon

    Well….that Pope Alexander VI was open to life when he should not have been and had 6 (and probably 7 children according to the papal period Orsini mistress) (6 as Cardinal)…is certain. That his one mistress was a young married woman ( with the mother in law’s permission) is certain. Who murdered whom and was Lucretia, his daughter, really bad or moderately so is the disputed part so I could see the scholar disputes pushing them toward fiction which really means toward those scholars who had everyone as demonic. The daughter, Lucretia, was married several times in the Vatican with one husband removed by murder and the strangler in question said Alexander VI ordered it…..yet some scholars don’t report that same thing so the problem of Italian history chroniclers differing is another problem though the Borgias were Spanish on the Pope’s side…Italian on the mistresses side….one being the sister of the future Paul III who himself reformed as to libertine ways prior to ordination and the papacy. Pope Julius II had three children as Cardinal, Pope Innocent VIII fathered a child prior to ordination as did Pius II. Now in our day, Fr. Entenauer becomes a non person overnight for perhaps a momentary embrace while at St. Antoninus’ time according to that saint…most of the curia had mistresses while they were in the curia.

  • bill bannon

    you are correct….it is Showtime in the US/ April 3 and Bravo in Canada….Jeremy Irons as Rodrigo. It has a recipe link (below)..based on the series ( probably not historical either). We don’t have Showtime….my 3G bill alone suffices as an extra the way I use it. Benedict has two female cooks by the way but last night’s show only mentioned them and food that was basic but good….so no Poulet au Riesling I guess ( a fav here except when I use cheap Riesling and Smart Balance rather than butter…you can’t fool mother haute cuisine).

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