Inside The Popes secret porn bathroom closed off to the public for centuries

Rumours of the Pope's "secret porn" bathroom have long fascinated tourists and historians alike.

The Stufetta della Bibbiena – meaning the "small heated room of Cardinal Bibbiena" – inside the Pope's residence at the palace of the Vatican has been decorated with X-rated artwork since 1516 when Renaissance painter Raphael gave the room an adult makeover.

While Cardinal Bibbiena was said to be a patron of the arts, successive residents of the Vatican weren't so taken with the NSFW illustrations, and the room has since been whitewashed over, repainted, and at one point turned into a kitchen.

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That was until the 19th century, when the part of the palace where the room was located was revamped as the Pope's personal home and the room was rediscovered.

Nowadays the room is closed off to visitors, with few allowed in under very specific circumstances.

Writing for Slate.com, Tony Perrottet said he was determined to be one of those lucky people to catch a glimpse of the erotic washroom.

Presenting himself as a scholar studying the "pagan influence on Renaissance art", Perrottet came up against a number of obstacles, proving that the Stufetta really is as elusive as people claim.

Perrottet initially received two conflicting emails – one of which approved his visit, and the other claiming "in no uncertain terms that the Stufetta was closed to outsiders. End of story."

Deciding to turn up anyway, he received another email just hours before the appointment saying the visit had been cancelled, with no explanation.

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He replied, begging for a resceduling and was in luck.

"Apparently an Italian Minister was scheduled to meet the pope in his audience room," he wrote.

"But if I turned up on time, they could slip me into the bathroom just beforehand during a 10-minute window."

Perrottet was ushered through a complex maze of rooms in the Vatican's famous palace, guided by a helpful monsignor.

"We passed through Bibbiena's original bedroom, now a sanitized meeting room, and stopped in front of a small wooden door.

"Poised with the key, the monsignor was momentarily perplexed. 'We open up the Stufetta very rarely. Almost never.'

"But then we were inside."

The room, he discovered, is about eight feet wide and twice as high, and was covered from floor to ceiling in images of naked gods and goddesses.

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Venus, the Roman goddess of love, and Cupid, the god of erotic desire, lined the walls while scenes from Roman folklore adorned the panels decorating the room "like a graphic novel".

Some particularly risqué images were unfortunately destroyed.

"Embarrassingly, I had to ask the monsignor to stand aside, so I could get a proper view of the most notorious image, of the randy goat-god Pan leaping from the bushes with a monstrous erection," Perrottet wrote.

"I was shocked to see that the image had been vandalized. Someone had etched out Pan’s manhood and filled in the gap with white paint."

"Soon I was back outside, heading for the exit. I was so elated, I felt like high-fiving the Swiss Guards at the gates.

"I’d beheld the fabled Stufetta and lived to tell about it.

"The images hardly qualified as jaw-dropping porn, but erotica is all about context. To find them buried deep in the Vatican, still surviving the centuries of guilt and repression, gave them a charge no click of the mouse could ever achieve."

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