The Palazzo della Cancelleria, one of Renaissance Rome’s most magnificent palaces, has been opened to public view for the first time by the Vatican.

The Palazzo della Cancelleria, built in the late 1400s, was originally a residence for a highly-placed cardinal. The building is located near the Campo dei Fiori market and was constructed on the ruins of a paleo-Christian church.

Monsignor Nunzio Galantino, head of the Vatican’s patrimony office, invited news cameras into the palazzo to showcase the spirit of transparency. Galantino has been directed by the Pope to lead efforts to improve the Vatican’s financial transparency and openness regarding budgets, revenue, investments, and spending. The Holy See has been plagued by financial scandals, which have discouraged donors from supporting the Vatican.

The Palazzo della Cancelleria currently houses three of the Vatican’s most important courts: the Roman Rota, which deals with marriage annulments; the Apostolic Signatura, responsible for internal church administrative cases; and the Apostolic Penitentiary, which issues indulgences. All three have historically been incredibly secretive.

While the Vatican has taken steps to increase transparency in its financial operations, it has not opened the palazzo for regular public tours. However, the building is occasionally used for conferences and private events.

Visitors on a tour of the palazzo saw rooms filled with priests reviewing canonical files, frescoes of cherubs, gilded ceiling panels, and trompe-l’oeil columns. The tour also visited the wood-paneled library where Napoleon Bonaparte stored imperial archives during Rome’s period as his second capital.

The tour ended with a visit to the underground area, where a permanent exhibit of Leonardo da Vinci’s mechanical inventions is hosted. This area also includes a small pool connected to a canal built during the time of Emperor Augustus to drain water from the swampy surroundings into the Tiber. Behind a discreet door, visitors can explore the ruins of the ancient paleo-Christian San Lorenzo in Damaso church on which the palazzo was constructed.