The Gardens of the Vatican

The Gardens of the Vatican - Linda Kooluris Dobbs and Kildare Dobbs
Published in England and the U.S. by Frances Lincoln Limited Publishers and in Canada by McArthur & Company.

Twenty-seven years in the making, The Gardens of the Vatican is a private photographic tour of eight centuries of ‘green thoughts in a green shade’. The several gardens in the Vatican territory reflect the history of gardens in general. In addition to the Persian-influenced quadrant gardens of the Teuton Cemetery and the Secret garden, adorned with lemon-trees in pots, there are gardens in the Italian, French and English styles.

The book is rich in anecdote and detail: Pope John XXIII liked to ramble along the pathways and chat with the gardeners. His predecessor Pius XII wanted solitude, so the gardeners were obliged to hide. There is a fragment of the Berlin Wall, a Chinese pavilion given by the Catholics of that country, and a gnarled old olive tree transplanted from Gethsemane in the Holy Land.

The Gardens of the Vatican offers a fascinating and inspiring glimpse of a bachelor’s refuge, through eight centuries of history.

”A work of staggering vision and dedication, 27 years in the making, which gives a rare, fascinating and inspiring glimpse of the Vatican's grand gardens.“ - Bookseller


About The Authors

Linda Kooluris Dobbs

Linda Kooluris Dobbs

studied at the Sorbonne and graduated from Pine Manor College and with honors from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Now based in Toronto, her portraits, landscapes, still lifes and photographs are found in corporate and private collections worldwide. Generations of art-students at Toronto Ryerson University and Avenue Road Art School have paid tribute to her dedication as a teacher.

Kildare Dobbs

Kildare Dobbs

is an award-winning essayist and poet, author of 18 books, including Running to Paradise for which he won a Governor General’s Award, and Casanova in Venice, A Raunchy Rhyme. He was born Irish in India and for many years has been Canadian. His work has been widely anthologized. In 2000 he was invested with the order of Ontario. His favourite city is Rome.


In the midst of Rome there is a domain made holy by the presence of the remains of St. Peter.  The great dome of the basilica rises above the tomb, and around it are the gardens of the Vatican, a tiny independent state and a symbol of the spiritual empire which is the Roman Catholic Church.

The Basilica of Saint Peter

The scrupulously maintained gardens encompass the history of the horticulture, from the 8th century, when Charlemagne endowed the Teutonic Cemetery, to the present day. There are gardens in the taste of several nations; Italian, French, English, with echoes of the ancient gardens of Persia and Babylon. Even in the stifling heat of Roman summer, this is a green, shady place, its many fountains and architectural pleasances culminating in the exquisite Casina of Pius IV, a Renaissance palace.

Casina Vatican Gardens

Here and there through the domain are shrines and mementoes of spiritual events - including a piece of the Berlin wall. A Chinese pavilion and an olive tree transplanted from Gethsemane.

Putto Vatican Gardens

That sense of the divine comes through in the images of photographer Linda Kooluris Dobbs.  The text by Kildare Dobbs leads through the centuries to focus on the deeper purpose of these gardens, designed and cultivated to illustrate papal grandeur and as a form of praise for the Creator.


What people are saying

“I have had wonderful hours on my couch reading, no, even more, traveling through The Gardens of The Vatican with you.

It is such a strange place and a world of beauty, might, and magnitude of architecture and art. The book is a marvelous piece of art in itself!! I wonder, no, I am quite sure, this book could not have been produced in such a splendid way by any other two persons.

The pictures do not only show objects. They are produced by an artist’s eye, painting the images with a camera lens and with such feeling. Some sculptures, as if alive, stand out from the background. And some pictures makes you lean back by their magnitude, as in the bronze pinecone at The Belvedere Palace. I am amazed and surprised by your pictures of the Vatican Gardens. If you had been shooting and publishing garden photographs for several years, maybe I would not have been so astonished. But maybe that is the clue. You are not stuck in a pattern. There is thought behind every image and one feels as if one is a voyeur and not only a viewer. Also, the way they all are presented appears to have taken quite a long time to achieve. It starts, after the text, with a wonderful picture, The Vatican in bright sunlight across the Tiber and it ends with almost the same scene in evening light.

I really like it when I think I understand an artist’s own thinking.

To follow you through the story of gardens, and gardeners, as well as poets and lyrics as we make our way through The Gardens of The Vatican is, in my opinion, a masterpiece. Though I don’t fully understand the exact meaning of every single word, it is a great pleasure to follow an intelligent mind presenting so much knowledge with such delightful elegance.”

— Hampus Von Post, Sweden

“The great variety of photos and conversational/evocative text make it a unique and wonderful way to experience a place. You can open the book to any page and suddenly be swept into a specific space with its own story. The Polaroid transfer prints are particularly lovely as works of art.”

— Michael Gotkin, landscape architect, New York

From Hatchards VIP:

We at Hatchards believe that each season there are certain books which demand a little extra attention. These are our VIPs - Very Important Publications. The titles in this selection are intriguing, exciting, exceptionally well written and, in our opinion, essential reading. We wholeheartedly recommend them, certain that they will provide readers with hours of pleasure.

THE GARDENS OF THE VATICAN

by LINDA KOOLURIS DOBBS & KILDARE DOBBS

This fascinating tour is led by Linda Kooluris Dobbs, who began photographing the Vatican’s gardens twenty-seven years ago, and award-winning essayist and poet Kildare Dobbs. The gardens have developed and matured over eight centuries and now extend across 40 acres, reflecting a worldwide horticultural history. As well as Italian, French and English styles, there is a Persian-influenced Secret Garden of lemon trees in pots and in another garden stands a pagoda donated by Chinese Catholics. We find a fragment of the Berlin Wall and an ancient gnarled olive tree that was transplanted from Gethsemane in the Holy Land. A walled garden is tended by Carmelite nuns growing vegetables and salad for the papal table. As varied as the gardens are the ways in which the residents of the Vatican enjoy the surrounding trees and flowers. Pope Pius XII desired solitude as he walked out, and the gardeners were obliged to hide in the shrubbery. Pope John XXIII, on the other hand, would ramble along the pathways chatting with everyone he met. Past and present are interwoven in the shade of the umbrella pines. Historical details and anecdotes, along with planting plans and beautiful scenic pictures combine to form a rare and spectacular insight into this unique “bachelor’s refuge.”

Link to Hatchards VIP page

“One cannot help but notice Ms. Dobbs foray into the subtle beauty of innuendo… takes great care in communicating an audible, comprehensible visual message to the audience. It is not an exhibit of mere prints, nor is it trickery. Her work speaks clearly and strikes passionately.”

— Cedric Benabou, Review of Vatican Gardens and Roman Reflections Exhibition, Toronto

“A work of staggering vision and dedication, 27 years in the making, which gives a rare, fascinating and inspiring glimpse of the Vatican’s grand gardens.”

— Bookseller

“[...] "The Gardens of the Vatican" offers a captivating pictorial insight into the deeper purpose of these gardens, designed and cultivated to illustrate papal grandeur as a form of praise to the Creator. The beautiful photography of Linda Kooluris Dobbs (who began her photographic record of the Vatican Gardens in 1981) perfectly captures the solitude, simple beauty and spirituality of the gardens.

Kildare Dobbs’s rich narrative at the beginning of the book prepares the reader for the visual delights which follow. He plots the history of the gardens, the contribution to its development by various Popes and entertains us with anecdotal insights into this very singular ‘bachelors' refuge’.”

— The Reckless Gardner

read entire review...

“Canadian photographer Linda Dobbs and her husband, author Kildare Dobbs, have fashioned a memorable portrait of the 110-acre Vatican Gardens in Rome. Hidden by the high walls surrounding Vatican City, these are the remarkable private gardens of the Pope, green spaces that are partially viewed by visitors from afar from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica or the Vatican Galleries. The author's informative narrative, filled with anecdotes about the site's residents, traces the history of the grounds. In his observations he reflects that a walk through the grounds is like a stroll through the history of horticulture from the medieval period forward. Assisted by a locator map of the Vatican grounds, the reader can enjoy the same scenery in the splendid photographs: a variety of gardens with statuary, fountains, ancient trees, and flowering ornamentals that have given peace and pleasure down through the centuries to its owners.”

— National Garden Club

“I have been navigating by colours this morning...plunging into your website. Your work is so rich, vibrant, so thoughtful - and of course evocative. Your work gives me the same sweet scent of beauty that Neruda’s poetry brings me. Such close attention to your subjects.”

— Ian Burgham, Assistant Professor (Adjunct), Centre for Studies in Primary Care, Queen's University

“With this work, Canadian photographer Linda Dobbs and her husband, Kildare Dobbs, have fashioned a memorable portrait of the 110–acre Vatican Gardens in Rome. Hidden by the high walls surrounding Vatican City, these are the remarkable private gardens of the Pope, green spaces that are partially viewed by visitors from afar from the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica or the Vatican Galleries. The author’s informative narrative, filled with anecdotes on the site residents, traces the history of the grounds. In his observations he reflects that a walk through the gardens is like a stroll through the history of horticulture from the medieval period forward. Assisted by a locator map of the site, the reader can enjoy the same scenery in the splendid photographs: a variety of gardens with statuary, fountains, ancient trees, and flowering ornamentals that have given peace and pleasure down through the centuries to its owners.”

— Marilyn K. Alaimo, garden writer and volunteer, Chicago Botanic Garden.

The Gardens of the Vatican - Linda Kooluris Dobbs and Kildare Dobbs

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