The Pope’s Studio del Mosaico
COURTESY THE FIRST HOTEL
In Vatican City, all tour guides point out the Pope’s residence Casa Santa Marta, while just steps away sits an unassuming building circa 1578 called Studio del Mosaico. The few guides permitted inside introduce visitors to the handful of glass mosaic artisans who hold the job of a lifetime. These craftspeople chisel, polish, and burn—techniques developed by their 16th century predecessors—to maintain the breathtaking mosaics created for the Basilica’s 11 huge interior domes and 45 altarpieces. Pope Francis is a frequent visitor to the Studio, as he regularly gifts foreign dignitaries with a mosaic. (Former President Obama’s mosaic of St. Peter’s Square took nearly eight months to create.) Despite an inventory of 28,000 colored tiles stored in cabinets, sometimes the perfection-driven artist enters the adjacent glass-melting lab to heat two enamel pieces together with a blowtorch, fusing the shades together to create a new color. To tour the Studio, contact Access Europe, (pricey but super-exclusive); Aurea Roma, or Musement. Here’s a deeper look inside the Vatican, aka “The World’s Smallest Country”.