Mater Ecclesiae is a convent within the territory of Vatican City. The convent was named after a Catholic title for Mary, and it is located on the Vatican hill inside the Vatican Gardens. Mater Ecclesiae was constructed between 1992 and 1994 on the site of what used to be an administrative building of the Vatican police. The founder of Mater Ecclesiae was John Paul II. He founded the convent with the aim of having a monastic group of nuns within the Vatican City, so that they could pray for the pope and the Church.
The Mater Ecclesiae building is divided into two parts as follows: the western chapel which has two rectangular floors; and the eastern community rooms and mosaic cells which are rectangular in shape and on the Aquilone fountain’s side. It is comprised of four floors which house twelve monastic cells on the second and third floors. The building also has a kitchen, store, refectory, infirmary, archives as well as an office-studio on the ground and lower ground levels.
The Mater Ecclesiae is surrounded by several green gardens that contribute to its beauty and relaxed atmosphere. The gardens offer a haven of tranquility, neat lawns, exotic looking palms and colorful flower beds. While at the Mater Ecclesiae, you will also hear the sounds of fountains murmuring softly in the background.
Mater Ecclesiae is a simple and neat building sheltered within the Vatican gardens but it offers a spectacular view. By standing outside the Mater Ecclesiae convent, one gets a spectacular view over the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica and on to the horizon; on a day with good visibility you can enjoy the view of the snow-capped peaks of the Apennines.
Many popes like spending time at the Mater Ecclesiae to visit with the nuns and talk to them at their free time. It is not unusual to see the pope walking through the beautiful gardens surrounding the Mater Ecclesiae. The gardens provide a relaxing environment which helps the popes to reflect on several matters and meditate. It is said that some of the recent Popes named these Mater Ecclesiae gardens as the best place to spend time meditating.
The Mater Ecclesiae is also used to host many events and several Masses are also celebrated at this place. There are schedules for daily Masses and people are allowed to attend the Masses. Occasionally, the nuns residing at Mater Ecclesiae hold events to raise money for various charities and help poor students to pay their school fees. In November 2012, there were renovations done on the Mater Ecclesiae and this resulted in the nuns moving out of the convent.
The general environment around Mater Ecclesiae is very calm and soothing. There is no doubt that it is because of this that made the retired Pope Benedict XVI decides to reside at Mater Ecclesiae. After his resignation on 28th February 2013, Pope Benedict XVI moved into the Mater Ecclesiae convent on 2nd May 2013. This is his current home after resignation.