Ceremony site known for acoustics, viewing


When Archbishop William H. Keeler is elevated to the College of Cardinals today, the ceremony will be held in a large auditorium designed by a famous modern architect and completed in 1971.

By Rome standards, the building is modern indeed.

The architect was Pier Luigi Nervi, who was commissioned by the late Pope Paul VI to provide space within the Vatican for general papal audiences and other large meetings, such as the international synods of bishops.

Concerts are also held in what is now known as Aula Paolo Sesto -- Paul VI Hall -- in memory of the pope whose idea it was.

When a head of the Baltimore Archdiocese was last raised to the rank of cardinal, Archbishop Lawrence Shehan in 1965, the ceremony was conducted in the presence of an estimated 8,600 people in the vastness of St. Peter's Basilica.

Aula Paolo Sesto normally seats fewer -- 6,300 -- but today 2,000 temporary seats will be added.

And the acoustics and sight lines are considered better.

In fact, according to the Vatican's Press Office, "The hall enjoys perfect acoustics."

The floor has a double curvature so that the entire area can be seen from every point and a clear view of the papal chair is assured.

The parabolic roof is made up of 41 cement and marble ribs, which conceal air-conditioning ducts.

Despite the praised acoustics, loudspeakers will be used today to amplify Pope John Paul II's voice.

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