Vatican Museums

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Vatican Museums
Musei Vaticani
Rome Vatican Museums.jpg
The Vatican Museums as seen from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican Museums
Established1506;516 years ago (1506)
LocationFlag of the Vatican City.svg   Vatican City
Coordinates 41°54′23″N12°27′16″E / 41.90639°N 12.45444°E / 41.90639; 12.45444 Coordinates: 41°54′23″N12°27′16″E / 41.90639°N 12.45444°E / 41.90639; 12.45444
Type Art museum
Collection size70,000 [1]
Visitors1,300,000 (2020) [2]
Director Barbara Jatta [3]
Website Official website

The Vatican Museums (Italian : Musei Vaticani; Latin : Musea Vaticana) are the public museums of the Vatican City. They display works from the immense collection amassed by the Catholic Church and the papacy throughout the centuries, including several of the most well-known 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, [1] and currently employ 640 people who work in 40 different administrative, scholarly, and restoration departments. [4]


Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. [5] The Sistine Chapel, with its ceiling and altar wall decorated by Michelangelo, and the Stanze di Raffaello (decorated by Raphael) are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. [6]

In 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Vatican Museums were visited by only 1,300,000 persons, a drop of 81 percent from the number of visitors in 2019, but still enough to rank the museums fourth among the most-visited art museums in the world. [7]

There are 24 galleries, or rooms, in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the last room visited within the Museum. [8]


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, who were working at the Vatican, to examine the discovery. [9] On their recommendation, the Pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The Pope put the sculpture, which represents the Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons, Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being attacked by giant serpents, on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery. [10] [11]

Benedict XIV founded the Museum Christianum, and some of the Vatican collections formed the Lateran Museum, which Pius IX founded by decree in 1854. [12]

The museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public. [13]

On 1 January 2017, Barbara Jatta became the Director of the Vatican Museums, replacing Antonio Paolucci who had been director since 2007. [14] [15]

Pinacoteca Vaticana

Tourists in the Pinacoteca Vaticana Room XII (17th century) of the Pinacoteca Vaticana.jpg
Tourists in the Pinacoteca Vaticana

The art gallery was housed in the Borgia Apartment until Pius XI ordered construction of a dedicated building. The new building, designed by Luca Beltrami, was inaugurated on 27 October 1932. [16] The museum's paintings include:

Collection of Modern Religious Art

The Collection of Modern Religious Art was added in 1973 and houses paintings and sculptures from such artists as Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. [17]

Sculpture museums

The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding the Cortile del Belvedere. These are the Museo Gregoriano Profano, with classical sculpture, and others as below:

Museo Pio-Clementino

The Braschi Antinous is in the Sala Rotonda (Round Hall) of Pio-Clementine Museum The Braschi Antinous.jpg
The Braschi Antinous is in the Sala Rotonda (Round Hall) of Pio-Clementine Museum
Sala della Biga Vatican Museums, Musei Vaticani (Ank Kumar, Infosys Limited) 08.jpg
Sala della Biga
A Roman naval bireme depicted in a relief from the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste (Palestrina), constructed c. 120 BC; in the Museo Pio-Clementino. D473-bireme romaine-Liv2-ch10.png
A Roman naval bireme depicted in a relief from the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste (Palestrina), constructed c. 120 BC; in the Museo Pio-Clementino.

The museum takes its name from two popes: Clement XIV, who established the museum, and Pius VI, who brought it 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. [20]

Clement XIV founded the Museo Pio-Clementino in 1771; it originally contained artworks of antiquity and the Renaissance. 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 as follows:

Museo Chiaramonti

This museum was founded in the early 19th century by 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, or Braccio Nuovo, built by Raffaele Stern, houses statues including the Augustus of Prima Porta, the Doryphoros , and The River Nile. It is in the Neoclassical style and has a wide arched roof with skylights. The Galleria 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.

The Mars of Todi is an ancient Etruscan bronze statue from the late 400s BC; in the Gregorian Etruscan Museum. Mars of Todi.jpg
The Mars of Todi is an ancient Etruscan bronze statue from the late 400s BC; in the Gregorian Etruscan Museum.

Museo Gregoriano Etrusco

Founded by Gregory XVI in 1837, this museum has nine galleries and houses Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations in the territory of the Papal State as well as other works already held in the Vatican. [23] The collection include vases, sarcophagus, bronzes, terracotta, ceramics as well as works from the Falcioni and Guglielmi Collections.

The inside of this Egyptian 'Yellow Coffin' Sarcophagus is filled with intricate iconic and textual symbols; in the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano. "Yellow Coffin" - Ancient Egyptian.jpg
The inside of this Egyptian 'Yellow Coffin' Sarcophagus is filled with intricate iconic and textual symbols; in the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano.

Museo Gregoriano Egiziano

Statue of the Nile recumbent, 1st-2nd century AD; in the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano Statue of the Nile recumbent.jpg
Statue of the Nile recumbent, 1st–2nd century AD; in the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano

This museum houses a large collection of artifacts from Ancient Egypt and also many Egyptian works of Roman production in nine rooms. The Carlo Grassi Collection of bronzes is part of the collection. [24] Such material includes papyruses, sarcophagi, mummies, sculptures and reproductions of the Book of the Dead . [25]

Vatican Historical Museum

The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian : Museo storico vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Paul VI, [26] and was initially hosted in environments under the Square Garden. In 1987, it moved to the main floor of the Lateran Palace, where it opened in March 1991.


Gallery of Maps Vatican. Galery IMG 4451.jpg
Gallery of Maps
Bramante Staircase; spiral stairs of the Vatican Museums, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932 Vatican Museums Spiral Staircase 2012.jpg
Bramante Staircase; spiral stairs of the Vatican Museums, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932


Vatican Museum Queue - April 2007.jpg
On the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum is open to the public for free. It is popular and common for people to wait in line for many hours. The other days of the week tickets are available online or in person. This image is a panoramic view of one small stretch of the entire queue on Sunday 29 April 2007, which continues for some distance in both directions beyond view.

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sistine Chapel</span> Chapel in the Apostolic Palace, Vatican City

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the pope in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who had it built between 1473 and 1481. Since that time, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today, it is the site of the papal conclave, the process by which a new pope is selected. The fame of the Sistine Chapel lies mainly in the frescoes that decorate the interior, most particularly the Sistine Chapel ceiling and The Last Judgment, both by Michelangelo.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Apostolic Palace</span> Official residence of the Pope located in Vatican City

The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the pope, the head of the Catholic Church, located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Papal Palace, the Palace of the Vatican and the Vatican Palace. The Vatican itself refers to the building as the Palace of Sixtus V, in honor of Pope Sixtus V, who built most of the present form of the palace.

<i>Laocoön and His Sons</i> Ancient sculpture excavated in Rome in 1506 and displayed in the Vatican

The statue of Laocoön and His Sons, also called the Laocoön Group, has been one of the most famous ancient sculptures ever since it was excavated in Rome in 1506 and placed on public display in the Vatican Museums, where it remains. It is very likely the same statue that was praised in the highest terms by the main Roman writer on art, Pliny the Elder. The figures are near life-size and the group is a little over 2 m in height, showing the Trojan priest Laocoön and his sons Antiphantes and Thymbraeus being attacked by sea serpents.

<i>The Creation of Adam</i> Painting by Michelangelo

The Creation of Adam is a fresco painting by Italian artist Michelangelo, which forms part of the Sistine Chapel's ceiling, painted c. 1508–1512. It illustrates the Biblical creation narrative from the Book of Genesis in which God gives life to Adam, the first man. The fresco is part of a complex iconographic scheme and is chronologically the fourth in the series of panels depicting episodes from Genesis.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Pietro Perugino</span> Italian Renaissance painter

Pietro Perugino, born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance. Raphael was his most famous pupil.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sebastiano del Piombo</span> 16th-century Italian painter

Sebastiano del Piombo was an Italian painter of the High Renaissance and early Mannerist periods famous as the only major artist of the period to combine the colouring of the Venetian school in which he was trained with the monumental forms of the Roman school. He belongs both to the painting school of his native city, Venice, where he made significant contributions before he left for Rome in 1511, and that of Rome, where he stayed for the rest of his life, and whose style he thoroughly adopted.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Capitoline Museums</span> Museum in Rome, Italy

The Capitoline Museums are a group of art and archaeological museums in Piazza del Campidoglio, on top of the Capitoline Hill in Rome, Italy. The historic seats of the museums are Palazzo dei Conservatori and Palazzo Nuovo, facing on the central trapezoidal piazza in a plan conceived by Michelangelo in 1536 and executed over a period of more than 400 years.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Cortile del Belvedere</span>

The Cortile del Belvedere was a major architectural work of the High Renaissance at the Vatican Palace in Rome. Designed by Donato Bramante from 1505 onward, its concept and details reverberated in courtyard design, formalized piazzas and garden plans throughout Western Europe for centuries. Conceived as a single enclosed space, the long Belvedere court connected the Vatican Palace with the Villa Belvedere in a series of terraces connected by stairs, and was contained on its sides by narrow wings.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ennio Quirino Visconti</span>

Ennio Quirino Visconti was an Italian antiquarian and art historian, papal Prefect of Antiquities, and the leading expert of his day in the field of ancient Roman sculpture. His son, Pietro Ercole Visconti, edited Versi di Ennio Quirino Visconti, raccolti per cura di Pietro Visconti while Louis Visconti became a noted architect in France. His brother, Filippo Aurelio Visconti was also a classical scholar, who published the Museo Chiaramonti, a successor to the Museo Pio-Clementino.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belvedere Torso</span> Sculpture by an Apollonios the Athenian

The Belvedere Torso is a 1.59 m (5.2 ft) tall fragmentary marble statue of a male nude, known to be in Rome from the 1430s, and signed prominently on the front of the base by "Apollonios, son of Nestor, Athenian", who is unmentioned in ancient literature. It is now in the Museo Pio-Clementino of the Vatican Museums.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Colonna Venus</span> Roman marble copy of Praxiteles sculpture

The Colonna Venus is a Roman marble copy of the lost Aphrodite of Cnidus sculpture by Praxiteles, conserved in the Museo Pio-Clementino as a part of the Vatican Museums' collections. It is now the best-known and perhaps most faithful Roman copy of Praxiteles's original.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Hermes (Museo Pio-Clementino)</span>

The Hermes of the Museo Pio-Clementino is an ancient Roman sculpture, part of the Vatican collections, Rome. It was long admired as the Belvedere Antinous, named from its prominent placement in the Cortile del Belvedere. It is now inventory number 907 in the Museo Pio-Clementino.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Art patronage of Julius II</span>

Pope Julius II, commissioned a series of highly influential art and architecture projects in the Vatican. The painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo and of various rooms by Raphael in the Apostolic Palace are considered among the masterworks that mark the High Renaissance in Rome. His decision to rebuild St Peter's led to the construction of the present basilica.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Barberini Hera</span>

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<span class="mw-page-title-main">Giovanni Volpato</span>

Giovanni Volpato (1735–1803) was an Italian engraver. He was also an excavator, dealer in antiquities and manufacturer of biscuit porcelain figurines.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Francesco Antonio Franzoni</span> Italian sculptor and restorer

Francesco Antonio Franzoni (1734–1818) was an Italian sculptor and restorer.

This is an index of Vatican City–related topics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sleeping Ariadne</span>

The Sleeping Ariadne, housed in the Vatican Museums in Vatican City, is a Roman Hadrianic copy of a Hellenistic sculpture of the Pergamene school of the 2nd century BC, and is one of the most renowned sculptures of Antiquity. The reclining figure in a chiton bound under her breasts half lies, half sits, her extended legs crossed at the calves, her head pillowed on her left arm, her right thrown over her head. Other Roman copies of this model exist: one, the "Wilton House Ariadne", is substantially unrestored, while another, the "Medici Ariadne" found in Rome, has been "seriously reworked in modern times", according to Brunilde Sismondo Ridgway. Two surviving statuettes attest to a Roman trade in reductions of this familiar figure. A variant Sleeping Ariadne is in the Prado Museum, Madrid. A later Roman variant found in the Villa Borghese gardens, Rome, is at the Louvre Museum.

Tommaso Maria Conca (1734–1822), was an Italian painter and draftsman, active mostly in Rome.

Vatican City has become one of the world's most striking architecture through several centuries and a world cultural heritage. The area of the Vatican is small, which is made up of several famous landmarks. The architecture of Vatican City, dominated by religious architecture, is characterized by several architectural styles such as Roman, Baroque, and Gothic with the different time, most representative the buildings are concentrated in the medieval period and the 16th–18th centuries.


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Further reading