Looking Inside the Vatican as Cardinals Prepare to Pick Next Pope

As Catholic cardinals prepare to convene on Tuesday for the conclave to pick the successor to Pope Benedict XVI, we’re highlighting parts of Inside the Vatican, a special that National Geographic Television produced for PBS during the pontificate of Pope John Paul II, Benedict’s predecessor.

The special’s crew was granted unusual access to the Vatican, roaming through areas typically closed to the public and to the news media.

Some viewers may recognize the narrator: actor Martin Sheen, a devout Catholic.

The segment above describes how cardinals choose a pope, covers papal history, details the uniform of the Vatican’s famed Swiss Guard (all members must be from Switzerland), and explains the crucial role the Vatican played in codifying our modern calendar (known as the Gregorian calendar, after Pope Gregory XIII).

Below is the first part of the special, about Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign nation; and about St. Peter, for whom the Vatican’s basilica is named. You’ll also see preparations for the pope’s ordination of nine new bishops.

The following segment showcases the Pope’s photographer, whose day is nearly as busy as the church’s global leader. You’ll also go beneath the Vatican’s museums and galleries for restoration of art, and view a state visit from Argentina’s president.


The final segment of Inside the Vatican offers a tour of St. Peter’s Basilica. It opens with a rehearsal of the boys of the pontifical choir, who must be between the ages of 9 and 12. They leave the choir when they turn thirteen or when their voices change, whichever comes first. It concludes with the ceremony for ordination of new bishops.


Inside the Vatican is available on DVD. Visit shopng.com .

Inside the Vatican end credits: Produced, written and directed by John Bredar. Edited by Bonnie Cutler-Shear

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Changing Planet

Jeff has been a Senior Video Producer with National Geographic for over 10 years. He manages day-to-day operation of National Geographic's online video player and writes, produces and narrates videos. A video news journalist for more than 25 years, his previous experience includes Senior Producer for Discovery Science Channel, Executive Producer for a regional cable news channel, and News Director, News Anchor, Producer and Reporter for several local network affiliates in Pennsylvania, Georgia, Washington, DC and West Virginia.