Source AP ©

Pope blesses famed restored Bronze Door

The Bronze Door - the main entrance to the Apostolic Palace and the papal apartments that by tradition is closed upon the death of a pontiff – was restored and Pope Benedict XVI blessed it on Friday .

"It is my heartfelt wish that all those who enter through the Bronze Door may feel from the very beginning welcomed by the pope's embrace," he said during the inauguration ceremony. He was given a set of golden keys.

The massive pair of doors was removed two years ago and replaced with a copy. Officials said years of wear and tear had worn the bronze coating of the 7Ѕ-meter (25-foot) -high doors and had weakened the original wood, raising fears that the six-ton structure could collapse.

"The doors were unstable," Pier Carlo Cuscianna, head of the Vatican's technical office explained to the pope.

Steel braces were implanted in the wood during the restoration to ensure safety.

The Bronze Door - with its massive gilded handles - leads to the marble Scala Reggia (Royal Staircase), climbed in olden times by emperors and kings who sought an audience with the pope. It is guarded by two Swiss Guards dressed in Renaissance blue and yellow uniforms armed with halberds, and is still the principal entrance for pilgrims coming to see the pope. At night the door is closed.

Following Roman tradition, on the death of a pope one side of the door is closed, to symbolize that the head of the household is gone.

The door was placed in its present position atop a series of marble steps by the sculptor Bernini after a major restoration of St. Peter's Basilica in 1663.

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