The online news portal of TV5
VATICAN CITY -- With Vatican police motorbikes parked outside and a giant coat of arms of the Holy See looking down on the courtroom, the historic trial of the pope's butler Paolo Gabriele got under way on Saturday.
A clean-shaven Gabriele, dressed in a grey suit and grey tie, was impassive as judges and lawyers spoke in the hearing, his face lighting up only when he was speaking to his lawyer Cristiana Arru.
But the 46-year-old father of three, who is living under house arrest in his service apartment in the Vatican, looked pale and had bags under his eyes.
He followed the arguments closely but during pauses in the hearing crossed his legs and stared at the same place on the floor for long periods of time.
He made no visible reaction, even when the judge rejected almost all of the defence's requests, including one to declare parts of the case inadmissible because of the need to defend papal secrecy.
The atmosphere was relatively relaxed, although the small room measuring around 10 metres (yards) by 15 quickly became hot and stuffy with poor ventilation.
Journalists covering the trial were escorted through a gate known as the Arch of the Bells past a Swiss guard in a multi-coloured uniform and Vatican gendarmes in peaked caps into a part of the Vatican that is normally off-limits.
"Are you going to mass?" a smiling priest shouted out as the group walked past religious of both sexes, while sprinklers watered the immaculately kept gardens of the world's smallest sovereign state.
The four-floor ochre-coloured court building a large Vatican coat of arms over the entry, but was otherise marked with a simple plaque outside reading "Judicial Offices."
Journalists had to leave mobile phones and pens in metal lockers outside the courtroom before passing through a metal detector, out of concern that there could be hidden recording devices which have been banned by the court.
They were given orange plastic pens instead from the Catholic charity Caritas.
Two Vatican gendarmes surveyed the room during the hearing, along with eight police officers who will be called to testify at future hearings.
Among them was Domenico Giani, the head of the Vatican police force who led the investigation against Gabriele for allegedly leaking confidential papers that shed light on apparent fraud and intrigue in the Vatican.
Giani escorted Gabriele out of the courtroom at the end of the hearing.
Attendees in the public gallery included Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi and Daniel Rudolf Anrig, head of the Swiss Guard corps, which has been charged with protecting the papacy since 1506.
Following the hearing, journalists were again escorted through the city state, around the outside of the giant apse of St Peter's basilica, through courtyards and past palaces and out by St Anne's Gate.