01 Feb On Average, Each Resident of the Vatican Drinks 74 Liters of Wine Per Year
On average, each resident of the Vatican drinks 74 liters of wine per year. I found out why.
I know. It sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Or maybe it doesn’t, I guess it all depends on perspective. 54 litres is about 19.5 gallons. It’s enough to fill up a bath, or a fish tank. I guess per day it doesn’t seem like too much. It’s only around 200 millilitres of wine every evening, or nearly eight ounces. Still quite a bit but not ridiculous. At least, it wouldn’t be if the Vatican didn’t claim that most of the wine drunk by the clergy is communion wine, which means that the priest hood must be getting pretty plastered every Sunday, let alone other days when they may attend mass.
Or are they?
Now, I’ve never read the bible, hell, I can count with my fingers the amount of time I’ve been to church, but if I remember correctly from my brief religious studies in school, the blood of Christ was wine, which is why it’s drunk in church. Growing up, I was never particulars religious, at least not to extent of my parents, so I never really gave it much thought, other than wondering whether if red wine was Jesus’ blood, then white wine must be… never mind.
But even though I’m not hugely religious, I was pretty excited for a day trip to the Vatican City when my wife and I were on our honeymoon in Rome a few months ago. I was always interested in the history of the place, and if I’m honest the conspiracies and mysteries that came with it. There are tombs under the city that haven’t been opened for hundreds of years; nobody knows whats inside of them. It’s fascinating.
I was blown away when we finally got there. The architecture was awe-inspiring, the art was breathtaking and watching the Swiss Guard patrol was like a step back in time. We came on a Sunday, so it was pretty busy, however we managed to wade our way through the crowds and eventually made it to a 5pm service. I was disappointed to find out that the Pope only made public appearances on Wednesdays, but just being there was enough for me. It was incredible. The ceiling was high and just like the walls it was lined with gold. Great marble pillars held up the ceiling, and played host to group of sculptures that rested at the top of them. The floor was marble, and in the center a red carpet was laid over it; so soft I was tempted to walk around in only my bare feet.
When the mass started, I left my wife inside to pray and went for a walk outside. As I said, it was packed and I’m not overly religious, so it’s better someone else got my seat. Besides, I was much more interested in the Vatican as a place, not as a religious destination.
So, when I spotted one of the clergy emerging from a door I didn’t see on my map in the brochure, I was pretty intrigued. It was around the back of St. Peter’s Basilica, where the mass was housed. I only caught a glance of the priest emerging from the small door, so I didn’t really catch his face, however I did see that he was holding a bottle of wine; presumably for the mass inside of the building.
Because the priest was in such a hurry, I couldn’t speak to him before he disappeared around the corner, but I did manage to jam my foot in the doorway that he came out of. Looking around, it didn’t look like anyone was watching me, so I stepped inside. I know it was dumb, but I was just curious.
Stepping inside, I was shocked. I suppose I expected something grand and holy, based of what the rest of the Vatican was like. However I was met with a surprisingly average and narrow plank-floored hallway, and instead of marble and gold walls all I got was some bricks. It honestly didn’t even smell that good, in fact, it smelt almost rancid, or moldy. It’s very hard to put into words, but whatever the smell was, it wasn’t pleasant.
The hallway was long and on a downwards angle. It seemed like forever before I saw a door. I was tempted to open it outright, because I figured I could just pretend I was a dumb tourist who had gotten lost, but I decided to press my ear up against it instead, to try and see if anyone was inside.
I couldn’t hear much at first, but after I waited a moment I could hear faint voices, as if two people were speaking to each other in a big room. It took me a moment to realize that these two people, whoever they were, weren’t speaking Italian, either. In fact, it sounded like they were speaking Latin! I was intrigued but disappointed, because if they were speaking Italian I might’ve even able to ask them what this place was, as I spoke a bit of it myself.
Deciding not to investigate, I pressed on wards down the hallway. I knew I should’ve turned around. But I had already started down this rabbit hole of sorts, so I wasn’t going to tun back. I just hoped that nobody was going to walk in to me down here, as deep down I knew that what I was doing was much worse than just trespassing. Or at least, had much larger repercussions.
Eventually I came to another door, this one secured with a rather large and heavy wooden bar running across the door. It was as if it was intended to keep whatever was inside in, rather than to keep anybody out. It was incredibly weird, but I didn’t let that deter me. Pressing my ear up against the door this time, I was met with no sound. I carefully slid the bar up and over the two metal rods that held it in place up against the door, before setting down softly o the ground. I almost worked up a sweat; the thing was so heavy.
As I made my way in through the door the smell only got more intense and caused me to gag. It was foul. Through the door was a small room, the walls of which lined with bookcases and a desk in the middle with a notepad, pencil and an open book. I dragged the wooden log inside and closed the door, hoping no one would notice and then walked over to the desk.
On the notepad was a table, with numbers and what seemed to be dates. It looked like an excel sheet, except it was all written in Latin. On the top of the paper read: ‘temporibus coctores.’ I flipped back the pages of the notepad, I saw more tables like this except with each row lined through, like crossing something of a to-do list. It was strange, but not particularly malicious.
But the book… it was something else.
Opening it, most of the pages were filled with walls of Latin text. However, as I flipped through it I came to the bookmarked page, and the text fell away in favor of diagrams. It was diagrams of people putting things into barrels, a red liquid. My first thought was that this whole area was some sort of brewery for the Vatican. Until I turned the pages.
This time it was a diagram of the extraction.
A young women was pinned up against the wall. Two priests held lanterns either side of her head, while another knelt in prayer in front of her. Another man had presumably slit her wrists, and was draining her blood into a bucket. On the next page, it showed the blood being mixed with something else, actual wine, maybe? The page after that, it showed older looking people drinking the liquid, and then an arrow pointing towards the same people looking younger.
“This must be bullshit,” I muttered to myself. There was no way that this actually worked, furthermore there was no way that the Vatican actually did this, either. I assume by now you know that I was very, very wrong.
I nearly had a heart attack when the door behind me burst open. Two larger men wearing a black tunic and hood walked in, followed by a much smaller man wearing an outfit similar to a priests, but red with a black collar.
Shocked, I somehow managed to spurt out that I was lost. The man in the red walked around behind me and peered into the book, which I had stupidly left open and shook his head. He said something to the other two men in Latin, before one of them stepped up to me and swung some sort of club down on my head. Although I didn’t really feel it at the time, when I woke up I definitely did.
I awoke in a small cell made of a mix of brick and stone cobbled together. At the front of the cell was some bars and just in front of that a lantern rested on the floor, creating a faint light.
“What the fuck…” I said softly to myself. I could feel my pulse in my head, it was as if someone was beating on the back of my head with a club. Well, I guess that is actually what happened. looking around my cell, I spotted my jacket in the corner but not my backpack or any of my other clothes. In fact, I was dressed in filthy white rags. Grabbing my jacket, I saw that my phone was still in a small pocket in the interior of the jacket. I always kept it there, as I was scared of being pick pocketed. I figured that whoever took my stuff missed that pocket.
I walked over to the metal bars at the front of my cell. It seemed so cliché, like the prison from one of the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
I called out.
“Hey… Hey! Is anybody here? I don’t know whats going on, I was lost and I just-“
I was cut off by a women’s voice.
“You came down here by yourself? They just took me.”
Her voice was weak, and sounded as if it came from the cell that was next to mine.
“Yeah, I saw someone come out of a door and I made my way down,” I replied. “Do you know whats going on? I saw something before and I think that’s why they took me.”
“No, I just remember passing out a while ago, I can’t remember the date, but I think it was a week ago? I don’t know, I just woke up here like you. Whats your name?” She asked. I think she was just as afraid as I was.
“Alec, and you?”
“Esther, I came down here from Sweden with my Mother on holiday. Next thing I know, I’m locked in a cell. Hey, you said you saw something when you came down here?” She asked, in a concerned tone. I explained to her what I had seen in the book, and the table with he dates and numbers.
“That’s… probably why they took away the girl who was in your cell a while ago. Oh god, what if that happens to me?” She started to wail, and my attempts to calm her down didn’t really do much, so I decided to see if I had any phone charge left. Turns out I had almost half-battery, but no signal. All I had was a very, very small WiFi connection that I had locked onto during lunch at a café right by the entrance to the Vatican. I assumed the hallway I walked down must have led me down under it, which is why I could connect.
I snapped a few photos of my surrounding, and was about to message my wife over social media when I heard a door open. I ran back to my jacket, and quickly slid my phone back into the same jacket before running back to the bars to see what was happening.
Footsteps stopped in front of Esther’s cell, and then mine. It was too men, possibly the same two I had seen before but I wasn’t sure, as one was slightly shorter, but they wore the same outfits. One of them half a large knife up to me, while the other opened the door and slid in some soup and bread, before leaving. After they had left, I finally was able to message my wife with what was going on over my phone, along with a couple pictures. She said that she had called the police and that they were investigating, but they weren’t taking it to seriously. I think the police may have ties with the Vatican, or at the very least are paid to not investigate the people that go missing while visiting.
It’s been a few days since then. I decided to type this up to do something instead of wallow in my own self-pity. I don’t know how I’m going to get out of here. I’m still messaging my wife whenever I can, but my battery is dying. I don’t know what I’m going to do, and I’m scared. I think I know why so many people go missing in the Vatican, and I think I know why the clergy here drinks so much ‘wine’.