The Vatican Museums (Italian: Musei Vaticani; Latin: Musea Vaticana) are Christian and art museums located within the city boundaries of the Vatican City. They display works from the immense collection amassed by popes throughout the centuries including several of the most renowned Roman sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display, and currently employ 640 people who work in 40 different administrative, scholarly, and restoration departments.
Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. The Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling decorated by Michelangelo and the Stanze di Raffaello decorated by Raphael, are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. In 2017, they were visited by 6 million people, which combined makes it the 4th most visited art museum in the world.
There are 54 galleries, or sale, in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the very last sala within the Museum. It is one of the largest museums in the world.
In 2017, the Museum's official website and social media presence was completely redone, in accord with current standards and appearances for modern websites.
Sculptures above the exits of museums
Location of the Vatican Museums within Vatican City
|Visitors||6,427,277 (2017) |
The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased in the 16th century: Laocoön and His Sons was discovered on 14 January 1506, in a vineyard near the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to examine the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The pope put the sculpture, which depicts the Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons being attacked by giant serpents, on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.
The art gallery was housed in the Borgia Apartment until Pope Pius XI ordered construction of a proper building. The new building, designed by Luca Beltrami, was inaugurated on 27 October 1932. The museum has paintings including:
The Collection of Modern Religious Art was added in 1973 and houses paintings and sculptures from artists like Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.
The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding the Cortile del Belvedere. These are the Gregoriano Profano Museum, with classical sculpture, and others as below:
The museum takes its name from two popes; Clement XIV, who established the museum, and Pius VI, the pope who brought the museum to completion. Clement XIV came up with the idea of creating a new museum in Innocent VIII's Belvedere Palace and started the refurbishment work.
Pope Clement XIV founded the Pio-Clementino museum in 1771, and originally it contained the Renaissance and antique works. The museum and collection were enlarged by Clement's successor Pius VI. Today, the museum houses works of Greek and Roman sculpture. Some notable galleries are:
This museum was founded in the early 19th century by Pope Pius VII, whose surname before his election as pope was Chiaramonti. The museum consists of a large arched gallery in which are exhibited several statues, sarcophagi and friezes. The New Wing, Braccio Nuovo, built by Raffaele Stern, houses statues including the Augustus of Prima Porta, the Doryphoros, and The River Nile. The Galeria Lapidaria forms part of the Museo Chiaramonti, and contains over 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions. It is accessible only with special permission, usually for the purpose of academic study.
Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, this museum has eight galleries and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations. The pieces include: vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the Guglielmi Collection.
The Museo Gregoriano Egiziano was inaugurated on 2 February 1839 to commemorate the anniversary of Gregory XVI's accession to the papacy. The creation of the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano was particularly close to the pope's heart as he believed the understanding of ancient Egyptian civilisation was vital in terms of its scientific importance as well as its value in understanding the Old Testament. This feeling was expressed in a paper by the museum's first curator, the physiologist and Barnabite, Father Luigi Maria Ungarelli.
The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian: Museo storico vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI, and was initially hosted in environments under the Square Garden. In 1987, it moved to the main floor of the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran where it opened in March 1991.
The Vatican Historical Museum has a unique collection of portraits of the Popes from the 16th century to date, the memorable items of the Papal Military Corps of the 16–17th centuries and old religious paraphernalia related to rituals of the papacy. Also on display on the lower floor are the papamobili (Popemobiles); carriages and motorcars of Popes and Cardinals, including the first cars used by Popes.
The Museums had 6,427,277 visitors in 2017, making them the fourth-most-visited art museum in the world.
The Apollo Belvedere or Apollo of the Belvedere—also called the Pythian Apollo—is a celebrated marble sculpture from Classical Antiquity. The Apollo is now thought to be a Roman copy of Hadrianic date (ca. 120–140) of a lost bronze original made between 350 and 325 BC by the Greek sculptor Leochares.
It was rediscovered in central Italy in the late 15th century, during the Italian Renaissance, and in 1511 placed on semi-public display in the Vatican Palace, where it remains. From the mid-18th century it was considered the greatest ancient sculpture by ardent neoclassicists, and for centuries epitomized ideals of aesthetic perfection for Europeans and westernized parts of the world. It is now in the Cortile del Belvedere of the Pio-Clementine Museum of the Vatican Museums complex.Augustus of Prima Porta
Augustus of Prima Porta (Italian: Augusto di Prima Porta) is a 2.03 m high marble statue of Augustus Caesar, the first and one of the most significant emperors of Ancient Rome, which was discovered on April 20, 1863 in the Villa of Livia at Prima Porta, near Rome. Augustus Caesar's wife Livia Drusilla, now known as Julia Augusta, retired to the villa after his death. The sculpture is now displayed in the Braccio Nuovo (New Arm) of the Vatican Museums.Bramante Staircase
Bramante Staircase is the name given to two staircases in the Vatican Museums in the Vatican City State: the original stair, built in 1505, and a modern equivalent from 1932.Charity with Four Children
Charity with Four Children is a sculpture by the Italian artist Gian Lorenzo Bernini. Executed between 1627 and 1628, the work is housed in the Vatican Museums in Vatican City. The small terracotta sculpture represents Charity breast-feeding a child, with three other children playing. There is an imprint of the artist's thumbprint in the clay.Collection of Modern Religious Art, Vatican Museums
The Collection of Modern Religious Art of the Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani, Collezione Arte Religiosa Moderna) is a collection of paintings, graphic art and sculptures. It occupies 55 rooms: the Apartment of Alexander VI (in the first floor of the Apostolic Palace), the two floors of the Salette Borgia, a series of rooms below the Sistine Chapel, and a series of rooms on the ground floor.Culture of Vatican City
Vatican City is itself of great cultural significance. Buildings such as St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel are home to some of the most famous art in the world, which includes works by artists such as Botticelli, Bernini and Michelangelo. The Vatican Library and the collections of the Vatican Museums are of the highest historical, scientific and cultural importance. In 1984, the Vatican was added by UNESCO to the List of World Heritage Sites; it is the only one to consist of an entire country.The Vatican can be said to be the de facto custodian of the Latin language through its Latinitas Foundation. An important product of this foundation is the Latin lexicon of recent neologisms, the Lexicon Recentis Latinitatis.
The permanent population of the Vatican City is predominantly male, although two communities of nuns live in the Vatican. A minority are senior Catholic clergy, some are members of institutes of consecrated life, and the Swiss Guards make up an important segment. Many workers in Vatican City and embassy personnel accredited to the Holy See live outside its walls.
Tourism and pilgrimages are an important factor in the daily life in the Vatican. The Pope has weekly public audiences and celebrates public Mass and other services, and imparts his Urbi et Orbi blessing every Easter and Christmas, and immediately following his election as Pope. For significant events with large numbers of attendees, he concelebrates open-air Mass in Saint Peter's Square.Decemviri Altarpiece
Decemviri Altarpiece (Italian: Pala dei Decemviri) is a painting by the Italian Renaissance artist Pietro Perugino, executed in 1495-1496, and housed in the Pinacoteca Vaticana in Vatican City.
The work was commissioned by the Decemviri ("Ten Men") of Perugia for the chapel in the Palazzo dei Priori, and was executed 1495 to 1496. It was originally surmounted by a Pietà (87 x 90 cm), now at the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria.Discobolus
The Discobolus of Myron ("discus thrower", Greek: Δισκοβόλος, Diskobólos) is a Greek sculpture completed at the start of the Classical Period, figuring a youthful ancient Greek athlete throwing discus, circa 460–450 BC. The original Greek bronze is lost but the work is known through numerous Roman copies, both full-scale ones in marble, which was cheaper than bronze, such as the first to be recovered, the Palombara Discobolus, and smaller scaled versions in bronze.
A discus thrower depicted is about to release his throw: "by sheer intelligence", Kenneth Clark observed in The Nude, "Myron has created the enduring pattern of athletic energy. He has taken a moment of action so transitory that students of athletics still debate if it is feasible, and he has given it the completeness of a cameo." The moment thus captured in the statue is an example of rhythmos, harmony and balance. Myron is often credited with being the first sculptor to master this style. Naturally, as always in Greek athletics, the Discobolus is completely nude. His pose is said to be unnatural to a human, and today considered a rather inefficient way to throw the discus. Also there is very little emotion shown in the discus thrower's face, and "to a modern eye, it may seem that Myron's desire for perfection has made him suppress too rigorously the sense of strain in the individual muscles," Clark observes. The other trademark of Myron embodied in this sculpture is how well the body is proportioned, the symmetria.
The potential energy expressed in this sculpture's tightly wound pose, expressing the moment of stasis just before the release, is an example of the advancement of Classical sculpture from Archaic. The torso shows no muscular strain, however, even though the limbs are outflung.Gallery of Maps
The Gallery of Maps (Italian: Galleria delle carte geografiche) is a gallery located on the west side of the Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican containing a series of painted topographical maps of Italy based on drawings by friar and geographer Ignazio Danti.The gallery was commissioned in 1580 by Pope Gregory XIII as part of other artistic works commissioned by the Pope to decorate the Vatican. It took Danti three years (1580–1583) to complete the 40 panels of the 120 m long gallery.List of paintings by Raphael
The following is a list of paintings by Italian Renaissance painter Raphael. Together with Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci he forms the traditional trinity of great masters of that period. He was enormously productive, despite his early death at 37, and a large body of work remains, especially in the Vatican, where Raphael and the large team under his direction, executing his drawings frescoed the Raphael Rooms known as the Stanze. He was extremely influential in his lifetime, but after his death the influence of his great rival Michelangelo was more widespread until the 18th and 19th centuries, when his more tranquil qualities were again widely taken as models.Niccoline Chapel
The Niccoline Chapel (Italian: Cappella Niccolina) is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City. It is especially notable for its fresco paintings by Fra Angelico (1447–1451) and his assistants, who may have executed much of the actual work. The name is derived from its patron, Pope Nicholas V, who had it built for use as his private chapel.
The chapel is located in the Tower of Innocent III, in the most ancient part of the Apostolic Palace. The walls were decorated by Fra Angelico with images of two of the earliest Christian martyrs; the upper level has Episodes from the Life of St. Stephen, and the lower one Scenes from the life of St. Laurence. The vault is painted blue, decorated with stars, and features figures of the Four Evangelists in the corners. The pilasters are decorated with the eight Doctors of the Church.
The chapel is not included in the usual tourist visit, but can be seen by special pre-booked groups.Oddi Altarpiece (Raphael)
The Oddi Altarpiece is an altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin painted in 1502-1504 by the Italian Renaissance master Raphael for the altar of the Oddi family chapel in the church of San Francesco al Prato in Perugia, Italy, now in the Vatican Pinacoteca. The altarpiece was commissioned for the Oddi family chapel in San Francesco al Prato in Perugia, was taken to Paris in 1797 (for the Musée Napoleon) and with 1815 brought back to Italy, not to Perugia but to the Vatican Pinacoteca.Pio Cristiano Museum
The Pio Cristiano Museum is one of the Vatican Museums. It houses various works of Christian antiquity.The museum was founded by Pope Pius IX in 1854, two years after the establishment of the Pontifical Commission for Sacred Archaeology.Saint Jerome in the Wilderness (Leonardo)
Saint Jerome in the Wilderness (c. 1480) is an unfinished painting by Leonardo da Vinci, now in the Vatican Museums, Rome.Sala Regia (Vatican)
The Sala Regia (Regal Room) is a state hall in the Apostolic Palace in Vatican City.
Although not intended as such, this broad room is really an antechamber to the Sistine Chapel. It also connects to the Pauline Chapel and is reached by the long staircase known as the Scala Regia. To the left of the entrance formerly stood the papal throne, which is now at the opposite side before the door leading to the Pauline Chapel.
The hall was begun under Pope Paul III by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger and was completed in 1573. The elegant barrel vault is graced by the very impressive plaster decorations of Perino del Vaga. The stucco ornaments over the doors are by Daniele da Volterra. By 2019, the room and staircase were open to tourists who visit the Apostolic Palace.The walls were decorated by Livio Agresti, Giorgio Vasari and Taddeo Zuccari. The frescoes depict momentous turning-points in the history of the Church, including the return of Pope Gregory XI from Avignon to Rome, the Battle of Lepanto, the St. Bartholomew's Day massacre, the raising of the ban from Henry IV, the reconciliation of Pope Alexander III with Frederick Barbarossa and Peter II of Aragon offering the Kingdom to Pope Innocent III.
The hall was originally used for the reception of princes and royal ambassadors, hence its name. Consistories were held in it, but were later transferred to the Saint Peter's Basilica on November 19, 2016, and the area has also provided an occasional musical recital in the presence of the pope; during a conclave it was used as a promenade for the cardinals; in February 2019 it was the site of a “group confessional” and other activities during a conference on sexual abuse.San Francesco al Prato Resurrection
The San Francesco al Prato Resurrection is a painting by the Italian Renaissance painter Pietro Perugino, dating to c. 1499. It is housed in the Pinacoteca Vaticana, Rome.Tourism in Vatican City
Vatican City, a quarter of a square mile (0.44 km2) in area, is a popular destination for tourists, especially Catholics wishing to see the Pope or to celebrate their faith. The main tourist attractions in Vatican City include the Basilica of St. Peter, Saint Peter's Square, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the Raphael Rooms.The largest numbers of pilgrims visit Vatican City at special moments in the liturgical year, such as Christmas or Easter, or during important periods such as the proclamation of a holy year or the funeral and election of a pope.
Tourism is one of the principal sources of revenue in the economy of Vatican City. In 2007 about 4.3 million tourists visited the Vatican Museums alone. Tourism is the main cause of the Vatican's unusually high crime rate: tourists are blamed for various minor thefts and incidents.Vatican Historical Museum
The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian: Museo storico vaticano) is one of the sections of the Vatican Museums. It was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI, and was initially hosted in environments under the Square Garden. In 1987 it was moved to the main floor of the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran and opened in March 1991.
The Vatican Historical Museum has a unique collection of portraits of the Popes from the sixteenth century to date, the memorable items of the Papal Military Corps of the 16–17th centuries and old religious paraphernalia related to rituals of the papacy. Also on display on the lower floor are the papamobili (Popemobiles); carriages and motorcars of Popes and Cardinals, including the first cars used by Popes.