Vatican Museums. Museum in Vatican City, Europe

Vatican Museums

Museum in Vatican City, Europe

Vatican City museums Photo © Ben Newcomer

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Vatican Museums

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	leopardo assale una zebra - Vatican Museums
Un leopardo assale una zebra - Vatican Museums. Photo by Ben Newcomer
The Vatican Museums are the national museums of Vatican City in Rome. They consist of several separate museums and house a vast collection of artworks, gathering by the Popes over the course of many centuries. The Vatican Museums are located in several palaces that were originally the residences of Renaissance Popes, such as Sixtus IV and Innocent VIII. The collection was started by Pope Julius II in the 1500s. The museums themselves were founded more than 200 years later, in the late 18th century, by Popes Clement XIV and Pius VI.

These incredibly important museums are home to world-renowned galleries like the Sistine Chapel, the Borgia Apartment and the Raphael’s Rooms, among more than 50 others. Every year about 5.5 million people visit the Vatican Museums, making them the 5th-most visited art museum on Earth.

Spiral Staircase of the Vatican Museums -
	Vatican Museums
Spiral Staircase of the Vatican Museums. Photo by Renate Flynn


The origins of the Vatican Museums can be traced back to a sculpture that was collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513). This sculpture, known as Laocoön and His Sons, has been one of the most famous sculptures in the world since its discovery in Rome in 1506 and is still one of the main highlights in the museum complex. The Pope placed it in what is now the Cortile Ottagono in the modern complex. The actual Vatican Museums were started in the last decades of the 18th centuries under the patronage of Popes Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799). They were the first sovereigns who opened the art collections and their palaces to the public, aiming to improve public knowledge of culture and art history. The Pio-Clementine Museum, the first building in the present-day museum complex, was named after them.

Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) greatly expanded the collections of the classical antiquities and epigraphy. The Etruscan Museum was founded in 1837, the Egyptian Museum in 1839, and the Gregorian Profane Museum in 1844 by Pope Gregory XVI (1831-1846). That last museum was later expanded with the addition of the Pio-Christian Museum. Later Popes kept adding to the collections, which, together, are now one of the world’s absolute finest. The enormous art complex consists of thirteen museums, housed in two large Vatican palaces. People who aren’t that into art may still want to visit to admire the stunning buildings and lavishly decorated interiors.

Some of the present-day galleries date from before the founding of the Vatican Museums. The Gallery of Tapestries, for instance, consists of 15th-to-17th-century tapestries; the Gallery of Maps was decorated in the late 16th century; and the Sistine Chapel dates from the late 15th century.

Museums and Highlights

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, Capella Sistina in Italian, was named after Pope Sixtus IV, and is probably the most of all Vatican Museums. A part of the Apostolic Palace, the chapel has gained fame because of the Chapel Ceiling and The Last Judgment, both of whom were painted by Michelangelo and are regarded as two of his major masterpieces. The chapel also serves as the venue for the Papal Conclave (Wikipedia Article), which attracts the attention of the whole world during the election of the new Pope. It also serves as the Papal Chapel.

Raphael’s Rooms

These were the apartments of Pope Julius II, who had been impressed by the work of Raphael and hired him to decorate the four rooms in the apartments. Raphael and his pupils erased all the work done by previous painters, such as the at-the-time, more famous Perugino. Raphael’s Rooms are chock-full with masterpieces and magnificent frescoes. Together with the Sistine Chapel, these rooms are the main highlight of the Vatican Museums.

Borgia Apartment

The Borgia Apartment was a private wing, built especially for Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503), Rodrigo de Borgia. The residence was decorated with frescoes depicting religious themes by Bernardo di Betto. It was opened to the public in the late 19th century and now houses the museums’ Collection of Modern Religious Art, which consists of about 600 paintings by artists such as Gaugin, Klee, and Kandinsky.

Etruscan Museum

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837, the Etruscan Museum is one of the most significant of its kind. It houses incredibly fine collections of vases, amphorae, bronzes and gold jewelry that date back to Etruscan rule, several centuries BC.

Egyptian Museum

Another museum that was established by Pope Gregory XVI, the Egyptian Museum features nine rooms filled with millennia-old artifacts such as hieroglyphs, statues, sarcophagi, mummies, and much, much more.

Historical Museum

One of the younger Vatican Museums, the Historical Museum was founded in 1973 by Pope Paul VI and offers an insight into the often turbulent history of the Vatican. Collections consist of portraits of Popes, popemobiles and carriages, weaponry and armor used by the Papal armies and so on.

Gregorian Profane Museum

The Gregorian Profane Museum contains numerous original Greek sculptures and Roman copies that date from the 1st to the 3rd century AD. The most famous artwork is Athena and Marsyas; other highlights are statues, sarcophagi, funerary monuments, mosaics and reliefs.

Pio-Clementine Museum

The Pio-Clementine Museum forms the heart of the Vatican Museums. It consists of the most important Greek and Roman sculptures and statues that were discovered in and around Rome. This museum is literally filled to the ceiling with masterpieces. Major highlights include the sculpture that started it all, Laocoön and His Sons, the Apoxyomenos; the Cortile Ottagonale with Apollo of Belvedere, the Hall of Muses; the Otricoli Zeus, and Sleeping Ariadne. It is a fabulous museum.

Pinacoteca Vaticana

Vatican Picture Gallery was founded at the end of the 18th century and opened to the public in 1932. It consists of sixteen rooms that house paintings dating from the 12th through the 19th century. Most works are by Italian master, but there are also several by European artists. There are works by Raphael, da Vinci; Titian, Barocci; Caravaggio, and so on.

Pio-Christian Museum

Another museum featuring antiquities, the
Pio-Christian Museum focuses on sculptures, sarcophagi; statues, mosaics; inscriptions, and other archaeological findings that date back to early Christianity. A notable statue is that of the 3rd-century Good Shepherd.

Gallery of Tapestries

This gallery houses several gorgeous Flemish tapestries, made by Pieter van Aelst’s school based on drawings by Raphael. They were made during the pontificate of Pope Clement VII and were first displayed in the Sistine Chapel in 1531. The tapestries moved to the current gallery in 1838.

Gallery of Maps

Another impressive gallery, the Gallery of Maps features 40 maps that are frescoed on its walls. They represent the Italian regions at the end of the 16th century.

Chariamonti Museum

Chariamonti Museum is another sculpture museum. This enormous museum contains about a thousand sculptures and statues, reliefs and friezes. It was organized by the Neoclassical sculptor, Antonio Canova, in 1807. A major highlight is the Braccio Nuovo Gallery.

The Immaculate Conception and Sobieski Rooms

This museum holds a large collections of 19th-century paintings and books. It was named after a 19th-century painting that depicts the victory of Polish King, John III Sobieski over the Turks in 1683.

Other Museums

Additional museums in the enormous complex that is the Vatican Museums are the
Chariot Room, the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Missionary Ethnological Museum and the Apartment of Pius V. The Vatican Courtyards are located in between the two palaces – the Belvedere Palace and Apostolic Palace* – that house the Vatican Museums.

Visiting the Vatican Museums

Featuring one of the finest collections of art on planet Earth, the Vatican Museums are an absolute must-do on any visit to Rome and Vatican City. It is, however, best not to try and see everything in the timeframe of a single visit; there is just too much to see. The route through all the museums alone is seven kilometers long. The suggested thing to do is to pick a few highlights and museums and exploring them in greater detail. Do make sure, though, to visit the magnificent Sistine Chapel and Raphael’s Rooms which are located at the end of the museum complex. Visitors can pick up maps featuring four color-coded itineraries through the complex; each itinerary has a different length and time, but all end up in the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican Museums are open from Monday through Saturday between 9AM and 6PM. The ticket offices close at 4PM and rooms are cleared half an hour before closing time. They can also be visited on every last Sunday of the month, which is when entry is free of charge between 9AM and 12.30PM. The museums are closed on January 1 and 6, February 11; March 19, April 5 and 6; May 1, June 29; August 15, and December 8, 25 and 26.

Tickets cost €16 ($18) for adults; and 8 EURfor children between 6 and 18 years old and students under 26.

How to Get There

The Vatican Museums can easily be reached by public transport. Metro Line A stops at ‘Ottaviano-San Pietro Musei’ and ‘Cipro’; from both stations it is a ten-minute walk. Tram 19 stops at Piazza del Risorgimento, from where it is a five-minute walk. Bus 49 stops right in front of the museums’ entrance; Buses 32, 81 and 982 stop at Piazza del Risorgimento; and Buses 492 and 990 stop at Via Leone IV and Via degli Scipione.

Similar and Nearby Landmarks

The massively impressive St. Peter's Basilica lies right next door, while other landmarks in Rome include the Colosseum, Piazza Navona and the Roman Forum.

Other major art museums elsewhere in the world are the Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Louvre and the Hermitage Museum.

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Author: bramreusen. Last updated: Feb 01, 2015

Pictures of Vatican Museums

Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums. Photo by Ben Newcomer

Vatican Museum - Vatican Museums
Vatican Museum - Vatican Museums. Photo by Sanish Suresh

One of the Galleries in the Vatican Museum, Rome - Vatican Museums
One of the Galleries in the Vatican Museum, Rome - Vatican Museums. Photo by Neil Howard

Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy - Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums, Vatican City, Italy - Photo by Chuyan Yu


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