Luxurious Papal apartments are opened to the public for the first time after Francis refused to stay there because they are too plush

These images show the luxurious interior of the Vatican’s Papal apartments – after they were opened up to the public for the first time.

Pope Francis has declined to use the palazzo in Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, preferring to spend his summer downtime at home in the Vatican hotel suite where he lives.

It means the sprawling 135-acre estate in the Alban hills has been gradually made more accessible to members of the public.

This morning, the Vatican opened the private apartments at the papal summer retreat to the outside world, giving visitors a rare look at the bed where Popes Pius XII and Paul VI died and where John Paul II recovered from an assassination attempt in 1981.

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In 2014, the gardens opened to visitors, in part to help offset the economic downturn the lake-front town has experienced since Francis decided to stay put in Rome.

Last year the Vatican inaugurated a weekly train service so visitors can see both the Vatican and the leafy hill-top refuge in one day.

Now, visitors can tour the never-before-seen private apartment of the palazzo itself, including the Consistory Room where Pius XII made Angelo Roncalli a cardinal in 1953. Roncalli later became Pope John XXIII.

But the simple pontifical bedroom with a view of the lake and the single bed might be more of a draw, not least because of the unusual purpose it served during World War II.

Popes past have always used it as a summer getaway, and Emeritus Pope Benedict XVI famously closed out his papacy there on February 28, 2013 when the big wood and bronze doors on the main palazzo slammed shut after he left the Vatican for the last time as pope.

Francis called on Benedict at Castel Gandolfo soon after his 2013 election. The two men in white chatted together and then prayed together in the now-open-to-the-public private chapel.

There, Francis famously eschewed the kneeler set up for him at the front and instead took his place next to Benedict in the pews, praying side-by-side with the retired pontiff and saying ‘We are brothers.’

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