All About Vatican City Telescope & Castel Gandolfo Observatory
Is there’s a telescope in the Vatican? Castel Gandolfo is a town located to the southeast of Rome, and has been the place where the Pope traditionally spends summer. The 135 acre Papal Summer Palace estate – known in Italian as the Palazzo Apostolico di Castel Gandolfo – is found here.
But the 8000 person town is also home to the Vatican Observatory. But what’s it all about? Let’s find out together.
- 1 The History of Vatican Telescope & the Vatican Observatory Foundation
- 2 Facts about the Vatican Telescope
- 3 What Is the Vatican Telescope Looking For?
- 4 Published Vatican Observatory Discoveries and Scope of Works
- 5 Thoughts on Conspiracy Theories, Aliens & More
- 6 Can You Visit the Vatican Telescope?
- 7 Can You Visit the Castel Gandolfo?
- 8 Frequently Asked Questions
- 9 Final word about Vatican Telescope
The History of Vatican Telescope & the Vatican Observatory Foundation
The Observatory is an educational research agency funded by the Vatican State. It is really no surprise that the Vatican Church holds an avid interest in the planets and the stars. Typically, holy days and even Easter are calculated based on astronomical data, as was the Gregorian calendar.
The Observatory of the Roman College and other similar institutions operated in the 18th and 19th centuries in Rome in the name of the Vatican, but by the end of the 19th century these had come under the control of the Italian state.
In 1891 Pope Leo XIII established another Vatican Observatory within the walls of the Vatican city. This institution became a leading establishment within the study of astronomy, however as Rome modernised the smog and light pollution generated from the growing city made it difficult. Eventually it was moved to Castel Gandolfo, but by 1960 the same problems were beginning to happen there too!
That is why the Vatican Observatory Research Group (VORG) is now located in Arizona at the University of Tucson. The centre of the Observatory administration however remains at Castel Gandolfo
Facts about the Vatican Telescope
- The Vatican Telescope – formally known as the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope – is located not within the Vatican, but in Arizona!
- The telescope’s official name is the Alice P. Lennon Telescope
- The design of the device allows for extremely sharp levels of foc
What Is the Vatican Telescope Looking For?
Staffed by Jesuit Priest astronomers, one of the main tasks of the telescope is to look for evidence that shows that Catholicism and Science are not necessarily in conflict with each other. Tasked with observing galaxies far away, those working in the institute use computers to help them track the night sky.
There is a group dedicated to planetary science, focussing on small objects. There is a meteoritics section, looking at how dense meteors are, as well as a Near Earth Observation Section, which identifies potentially dangerous objects.
Published Vatican Observatory Discoveries and Scope of Works
There are many other sections of study, too many to name. You can check out a detailed list of the discoveries in this article here to get a flavour for the depth of the study of the VATT.
Thoughts on Conspiracy Theories, Aliens & More
Not unsurprisingly – as is common with the Vatican City – there are a number of conspiracy theories that bounce around regarding the VATT.
One of the most popular is that the Vatican owns a telescope called Lucifer. Espoused by fringe group Christians, it is claimed that Lucifer the telescope is looking for aliens. And that when they find these aliens, they will use them to take over the world in favour of Vatican rule.
There is even a book written on the matter – Exo-Vaticana: Petrus Romanus, Project L.U.C.I.F.E.R. and the Vatican's Astonishing Plan for the Arrival of an Alien Savior.
Can You Visit the Vatican Telescope?
Yes indeed you can! Public tours are permitted, as long as reservation is made in advance during the May – October period. Tours usually incorporate a little part of scenic Mount Graham in Arizona and a stop for lunch, before visiting the observatory.
Can You Visit the Castel Gandolfo?
If you are visiting Rome and fancy getting out of town in the heat of the summer, then a visit to Castel Gandolfo – the administrative centre of the Observatory – is a good way to spend a day. Maybe you will be lucky enough to see the Pope! Ready our guide on how to visit the Castel Gandolfo.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the name of the Vatican telescope?
The name of the Vatican Telescope is the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope.
Does the Vatican own a telescope named Lucifer?
Conspiracy theorists say yes, but that is largely nonsense. We know the Vatican Telescope located in Arizona is called the VATT. We also know that there are other technologies located on the same mountain - one of which is called LUCI (an infrared camera by the way, not a telescope) which may be lending its name to the conspiracy theory.
Where is the Vatican observatory located?
The Vatican Observatory is located in Castel Gandolfo, southeast of Rome, Italy. The telescope however is located in Arizona, USA, due to lower light pollution levels.
How old is the Vatican observatory?
Generally the marking point of the beginning of the Vatican Observatory is traced to the late 19th century. Others however claim it dates back to the reform of the calendar in 1582.
How many telescopes does the Vatican own?
The Vatican owns one telescope - the VATT, located in Arizona.
Final word about Vatican Telescope
You thought the Vatican was all about old statues and art right? To be honest, we did too… If you want to visit the Castel Gandolfo and the observatory, you can make easy day trips from Rome.
It’s a nice place at which to spend a few hours away from the big city, especially if you want to escape the heat of Rome in the summer. And if all this Vatican chat has got you in the mood for visiting the Holy See, then check out our full guide to the Vatican City.
Fanny, a devoted art enthusiast and world traveler, has been exploring Vatican City’s treasures since 2012. As the founder and chief editor of the Visit Vatican blog, she’s dedicated to sharing the finest cultural and historical experiences of this iconic destination.