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The ‘English’ section of the gardens, complete with boxed hedgesand topiaries.

Pious tradition claims that the foundation site of the Vatican Gardens was spread with sacred soil brought from Mount Calvary by Empress Saint Helena to symbolically unite the blood of Jesus Christ with that shed by thousands of early Christians, who died in the persecutions of Emperor Nero Caesar Augustus.

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. 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. 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.

Patroness of the Gardens
Pope Pius XI designated Saint Therese of Lisieux The Little Flower as the official Patroness of the gardens on 17 May 1927, according her the title as “Sacred Keeper of the Gardens” and within the same year a small temple dedicated to her was built within the gardens near the Leonine walls.

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Right near the top of the Vatican Hill.

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Statues abound – right behind the walls to the Vatican City.

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An unusual modern statue.

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Shrine to the Immaculate Conception

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