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Observations placeholder

Vatican - Vatican city gardens



Type of Spiritual Experience


A description of the experience

Within the territory of Vatican City are the Vatican Gardens (Italian: Giardini Vaticani), which account for more than half of this territory. The gardens, established during the Renaissance and Baroque era, are decorated with fountains and sculptures.

The gardens cover approximately 23 hectares (57 acres) which is most of the Vatican Hill. The highest point is 60 metres (200 ft) above mean sea level. Stone walls bound the area in the North, South and West.

The gardens date back to medieval times when orchards and vineyards extended to the north of the Papal Apostolic Palace. In 1279 Pope Nicholas III (Giovanni Gaetano Orsini, 1277–1280) moved his residence back to the Vatican from the Lateran Palace and enclosed this area with walls. He planted an orchard (pomerium), a lawn (pratellum) and a garden (viridarium).

The site received a major re-landscaping at the beginning of the 16th century, during the pontificate of Pope Julius II. Donato Bramante's original design was then split into three new courtyards, the Cortili del Belvedere, the "della Biblioteca" and the "della Pigna" (or Pine Cone) in the Renaissance landscape design style.

Right:  Pine cones are used a great deal as a symbol in the Vatican

There is also in Renaissance style, a great rectangular Labyrinth, formal in design, set in boxwood and framed with Italian stone pines, (Pinus pinea) and cedars of Lebanon, (Cedrus libani). In place of Nicholas III's enclosure, Bramante built a great rectilinear defensive wall.

Today's Vatican Gardens are spread over nearly 23 hectares (57 acres), they contain a variety of medieval fortifications, buildings and monuments from the 9th century to the present day, set among ‘vibrant flower beds and topiary’, green lawns and a 3 hectares (7.4 acres) patch of forest [which symbolically is fascinating]. There are a variety of fountains cooling the gardens, sculptures, an artificial grotto devoted to Our Lady of Lourdes, and an olive tree donated by the government of Israel.


Every aspect of a garden is symbolic, the trees, the layout, the flowers, the state of ‘repair’, the tools and equipment, the walls, the buildings in it and so on.  So you have to take especial note in any sacred garden and note every feature, it all counts.  Flowers have their own symbolism, for example, as does fruit.

A garden also lends itself well to very complex symbolism, as there are any number of aspects of a garden that can be used – walls, plants, paths, layout, colour.  

It is, therefore, ideally placed to provide you with an at a glance idea of the state of the soul of the entity described – in this case the soul of the Catholic church! 

Is it formal, rigid, neat, organised, Disciplined and Intellectual ! or informal, with windings paths and secret spaces, blowsy, soft, and sensuous – emotional, tender, compassionate!

In general a garden can represent ‘Nature subdued’ – or it can represent Nature enhanced – the beauty in Nature is brought out.

Because one of the fundamental goals of all spiritual paths is to merge the Conscious with the Subconscious mind, in a 'marriage' of equals – a balance - the garden is a fairly potent symbol of where one has reached on this path. Thus any garden you see that is formal strict regimented neat, tidy but lacking in any sense of beauty or softness is not a good thing.




The source of the experience

Christian mysticism

Concepts, symbols and science items


Activities and commonsteps