Builders in hard hats and teams of gardeners were toiling away yesterday on Pope Benedict XVI's retirement home.
Perched on a hill in the heart of the Vatican, the Mater Ecclesiae complex was once the home of the Holy See's head gardener. In recent years, it has been a retreat for nuns.
But at some point after Easter, when he returns from a break outside Rome in Castel Gandolfo, Pope Benedict (above) will move in, together with his books, piano and cats.
In preparation, a cement mixer was grinding away in the drive that leads from wrought iron gates to the residence. The cactus garden was being weeded.
The Pope's close proximity to his successor will create an unprecedented situation for the Roman Catholic Church, although spokesmen for the Vatican have promised that he will live in seclusion.
They even said his Twitter account would fall silent.
From his new home, Benedict will have a view of the roof of the Sistine Chapel, were 117 cardinals will gather next month to elect his successor. A timetable for the conclave has not yet been set.
The cardinals will sleep in the Domus Sanctae Marthae palazzo, commissioned in the 1990s to provide an alternative to the cramped quarters of the Apostolic Palace.
Benedikt Steinschulte, from the Pontifical council for social communications, said the voters would be strictly segregated until a new Pope was chosen.
"They are totally closed off," he said. "After all, the word conclave comes from 'cum clavi' – locked in with a key." (© Daily Telegraph, London)