Vatican Museum

About Vatican Museums

Visit Vatican Museums to Explore Over 70,000 Paintings and Sculptures by Legendary Artists
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About Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a collection of Christian and artistic museums located inside Vatican City. Fifty four in number, these museums were established in the early 16th century and house artworks that the Catholic church has collected throughout the years.

The History of Vatican Museum dates back to the date Pope Julius acquired his first sculpture- Lacoon and his Sons. Now, Over 70,000 paintings and sculptures are part of the Vatican Museums' holdings, which are prominently displayed in its 54 galleries. Renaissance masters including Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini, and da Vinci are represented in classic sculptures, tapestries, and paintings. Additionally, they have a collection of Modern Religious Art, which includes works by painters like Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali, Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Carlo Carrà.

History of Vatican Museums In a Nutshell

Vatican Museum
  • In the sixteenth century, Pope Julius II acquired the sculpture "Laocoon and His Sons" from a vineyard owner.

  • In 1837, Gregory XVI established the Etruscan Museum, and in 1839, the Egyptian Museum.

  • The Pio Christian Museum was included during Pius IX.

  • Under Saint Pius X, the Hebrew Lapidary was founded in 1910.

  • In 1970, the Gregorian Profane Museum, Pio Christian Museum, and Hebrew Lapidary were moved from the Lateran Palace to the Vatican's current structure.

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Attractions Inside The Vatican Museums

Bramante Staircase
Bramante Staircase

There are many remarkable works of art and wonderful places to visit in the Vatican Museum but few are as well-known as Bramante's Staircase. In the Vatican Museums, there are in fact two stairs with the same name. The contemporary Bramante's Staircase was constructed in 1932 and was modeled on the original, which was constructed in 1505. The original staircase was built by the renowned Tuscan architect Donato Bramante and ordered by Pope Julius II in the early 16th century. The innermost side of the spirals on the staircase are lined with granite columns and have herringbone pavement. However, while the first staircase is in a more exclusive location, the second one is fortunately open to the public. Giuseppe Momo created this staircase in 1932, and it has many of the same characteristics as the original.

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The Raphael Rooms
The Raphael Rooms

Spanning across four separate rooms, The Raphael Rooms are one of the most popular places to visit in the Vatican Museum. Each room's walls are exquisitely decorated with enormous murals that show a wide range of religious and mythical tales. These chambers, which bear Raphael's name, are his own creations. While Raphael painted the majority of the pieces, several of them had to be finished by his pupils because the artist unexpectedly passed away in 1520 before the rooms were finished. Each stunning work of art that decorates the interior walls and ceilings alludes to an important principle of the Christian faith.

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Gregorian Etruscan Museum
Gregorian Etruscan Museum

The Georgian Etruscan Museum was established by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836 and comprises 8 galleries featuring ancient Etruscan antiquities and antiques discovered in well-known Etruscan towns. Vases, bronzes, sarcophagi, and the renowned Guglielmi di Vulci Marquises collection are among the historical treasures on display at this museum. A sizable collection of items from ancient Egypt, including papyrus, mummified animals, the Grassi Collection, and copies of the Book of the Dead, may be found in the Egyptian Museum, also known as the Egiziano Museum.

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Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, unquestionably one of the most well-known structures inside the Vatican Museum, and is an integral part of the history of the Vatican Museum. The Papal Conclave, which is the election process for a new Pope, is the most important ritual that occurs within these famous walls. The chapel's artworks are what have made it such a well-known attraction, despite the fact that this is a significant occasion for the whole Christian religion.

Michelangelo's paintings were the final touches to the chapel's magnificently painted interior, despite the fact that they may be its most recognisable feature. Up until 1508 the brilliant Renaissance artists Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Roselli worked on the walls under the supervision of Pope Sixtus IV. Michelangelo began working on his Chapel frescoes in 1508, while his biggest masterpiece, the last Judgement, was finished in 1513.

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Gallery of Maps
Gallery of Maps

The Gallery of Maps is a magnificent work of geographic art that was painted so that Pope Gregory XIII could observe the breadth of the Papacy. The 120-meter-long hallway on the third level of the Belvedere Courtyard is decorated with frescoes that depict various regions of an Italian map. Ignazio Danti, the artist, finished the pieces in 18 months. The Siege of Malta and the Battle of Lepanto are only two examples of the historical events that are shown in the paintings that span the corridor's ceiling.

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Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts
Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts

This site, which is now home to several of the Pio Clementino Museum's treasures, was formerly the loggia of the Innocent VIII Cybo Palazzetto (1484–1492) at Belvedere. In the past, the walls were covered in paintings depicting towns and landscapes, and little cupids painted by Pinturicchio along with his helpers (who are still visible today). Clement XIV made the decision to include 1400s architecture into the museum he was creating in the years 1771–1772; the loggia was enclosed by walls with windows, and the Hall of Busts was built at the end of the gallery.

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Lapidary Gallery
Lapidary Gallery

The Vatican Museums’ largest lapidary collection is kept in the Lapidary Gallery. This gallery is located towards the southern end of the expansive hallway that connects the Vatican Palace with the Belvedere Palace. Gaetano Marini, the first Custodian of the Apostolic Library from 1800, organized the exhibit. The Gallery is a 48-wall, more than 3400-page stone library that is composed of slabs, bases, urns, altars, and sarcophagi.

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Round Hall
Round Hall

One of the most interesting places to visit in the Vatican Museum, the Rotunda Sala was constructed in the 18th century.With its hemispherical vault, the Round Hall is a conscious imitation of the Pantheon. Colossal sculptures and busts that have been constructed on top of half-columns line the Sala Rotunda. Intricate mosaic designs from the third century A.D. cover the floor. Of course, the enormous red porphyry basin is the focal point, and measures about 13 meters in diameter.

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Archaeological Areas of Vatican Museums

Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis
Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis

The term "necropolis," which translates as "city of the dead," comes from the Greek words necrs (dead) and plus (city). Cemeteries were situated along the routes outside of the city since Roman law barred cremation and burial within the city for grounds of safety and sanitation. Along the Via Triumphalis section close to the city, there was one such necropolis. Numerous ancient graves, both communal and individual, have been uncovered via archaeological research, and they offer proof of the use of cremation and other pagan burial rituals.

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Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis
Excavations of St. John Lateran

You may still see the ruins of earlier structures beneath St. John Lateran, a cathedral built in the fourth century to honor Sts. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist. When Septimius Severus made the decision to construct the new barracks for the emperor's bodyguards in 193 AD, the dwellings that had been in this area during the first imperial era were leveled. Following the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312 AD, Constantine dissolved the barracks and ordered the construction of the basilica above them.6

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Vatican Villas & Gardens

Vatican Gardens
Vatican Gardens

Pope Nicholas III started the gardens by establishing an orchard, a lawn, and a garden in 1279. The grounds expanded significantly; the Vatican Garden currently covers 57 acres of the city. There are three different landscaping designs in the gardens: English, French, and Italian. As you go through each area, you will see the many plants and animals, which are complemented by picturesque structures, fountains, and sculptures created by the finest artists in each nation. The Fountain of the Eagle, which represents the return of water from the Acqua Paola to the Vatican, is one notable item. The gardens are filled with plant collections that include educational plaques. Each relates a unique tale about the origin of the plant and its significance to this revered location.

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Castel Gandolfo
Castel Gandolfo

Located a short distance from the Vatican, the Castel Gandolfo is a little town that derives its name from the eponymous castle it is home to. The Papal Villas, the Pope's summer residence, and the renowned Barberini Gardens are located in this medieval settlement, which is perched on a rocky outcrop above the beautiful, blue waters of the volcanic Lake Albano. There is a lot to see in Castel Gandolfo in addition to the Apostolic Palace, where you can get a glimpse of how the Pope would spend the summer. Visit the Doric Nymphaeum, a historical monument that was a part of Emperor Domitian's Villa, and the Church of St. Thomas of Villanova on the village's main square. While you are here, make a point of seeing the world's first mailbox.

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Vatican Museums FAQs

How much time do you need at the Vatican museum?

Owing to its vastness in size, we would recommend reserving one whole day to tour the Museums in a leisurely manner.

What is the best day of the week to visit the Vatican?

The Vatican Museums remain busy with tourists throughout the week. For the best experience, we would recommend visiting on a weekday during the winter months.

What is the best time to visit the Sistine Chapel?

The best time to visit the Sistine Chapel would be during a weekday, ideally immediately after its opening hours. If you’re prepared to brave the cold, the winter months generally draw a lesser crowd to the Chapel.

Is there a dress code for the Vatican?

The Vatican City itself follows a strict dress code, and the Vatican Museums are no exception. One should dress formally during their visit: clothes that expose shoulders or knees are strictly prohibited. Hats should be taken off before entering the City as well.

How many Vatican Museums are there?

There are 54 Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel.

What is special about the Vatican Museum?

The Vatican Museum is home to some of the most important and significant works of art and sculpture in the world. This includes the famous frescoes by Michelangelo on the walls of the Sistine Chapel.

What is inside the Vatican museums?

One can find a stunning range of paintings, frescoes, sculptures, preserved documents and sarcophagi inside the Vatican Museums.

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