Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Vatican City

Well, I am two thirds of the way through my stint in the Vatican City.
As I was unable to find a book by a native author (hardly surprising in a tiny state with a population of 800 and a penchant for secrecy), I turned to John Follain's true account of a triple murder among the Holy See's Swiss Guard in 1998. The main event regards the murder of Col. Alois Estermann, commander of the Swiss Guards, the Vatican force that protects the pope, who was found shot dead in his apartment inside Vatican City, along with his wife. Also shot dead in the room was a young Swiss guardsman, Cedric Tornay. Three hours after the bodies were discovered, the Vatican released a statement naming Tornay as the killer, his motive a "fit of madness." Hmmm.

My impressions so far are that this has formed a useful insight into the inner workings of the Vatican, although Follaine is frustrated in really getting to the higher eschalons of this city-state; relying instead on a procession of second hand witnesses and - frankly - dubious contacts. I have not yet finished this book so cannot comment on his conclusions but he does seem to be drifting towards a general sense that the Vatican investigation jumped the gun and was sloppily done, but was probably not far from the truth - save for a supression of a possible homosexual relationship between Estermann and Tornay (hardly a journalistic coup: this IS the Vatican we are talking about).

Still, a well written insight into the workings and paranoia of both the Vatican City and the Swiss Guard (and I now finally know why this Roman enclave has guards exclusively from Switzerland!). I will sum my thoughts up when I finish, which will be in the next few days...after which I shall be heading to Malta.

I now have a full round the world route mapped out, and am continuing to seek future destinations. You can find these listed at: www.webspinners.org.uk/roundtheworld/future_plans.htm - any suggestions for filling in the blanks, or comments on my chosen books are more than welcome!

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