Vatican Museums

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Vatican Museums
Musei Vaticani
Musei vaticani Coat of Arms.svg
Rome Vatican Museums.jpg
The Vatican Museums as seen from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican Museums
Established1506;518 years ago (1506)
LocationFlag of the Vatican City (2023-present).svg  Vatican City
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]
Visitors5,080,856 (2022) [2]
Director Barbara Jatta [3]
Public transit access Metropolitana di Roma - logo linea A.svg Ottaviano – San Pietro – Musei Vaticani
Vatican Museums from outside Vatican Museums outside.jpg
Vatican Museums from outside

The Vatican Museums (Italian : Musei Vaticani; Latin : Musea Vaticana) are the public museums of Vatican City, enclave of Rome. 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 employs 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 2023, the Vatican Museums were visited by 6.8 million persons, [7] They ranked second in the List of most-visited art museums in the world after the Louvre, third on the list of most-visited museums [8]

There are 24 galleries, or rooms, in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the last room visited within the Museum. [9]


The Vatican Museums trace their origin to a single 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. [10] 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. [11] [12]

Benedict XIV founded the Museum Christianum, and some of the Vatican collections formed the Lateran Museum, which Pius IX founded by decree in 1854. [13]

The museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public. [14]

On 1 January 2017, Barbara Jatta became the Director of the Vatican Museums, replacing Antonio Paolucci who had been director since 2007. [15] [16]

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. [17] 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. [18]

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.
Hall of Animals, Pio-Clementino Museum Museos Vaticanos, Ciudad del Vaticano, 2022-09-14, DD 39.jpg
Hall of Animals, Pio-Clementino Museum
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. [21]

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

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.

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.

Museo Gregoriano Etrusco

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.

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. [24] The collection include vases, sarcophagus, bronzes, terracotta, ceramics as well as works from the Falcioni and Guglielmi Collections.

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. [25] Such material includes papyruses, sarcophagi, mummies, sculptures and reproductions of the Book of the Dead . [26]

Vatican Historical Museum

The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian : Museo storico vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Paul VI, [27] 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.


On 18 August 2022, two members of the climate activist group Ultima Generazione glued themselves to the marble base of the Laocoon statue and unfurled a banner calling for an end to fossil fuels while a third member filmed them. Conservationists said that the act resulted in permanent damage to the sculpture, with restoration works costing 3,148 euros. A Vatican court subsequently sentenced the three to a nine-month suspended prison sentence and fines of up to 28,000 euros ($30,000). [28]

On 5 October 2022, an American tourist was arrested after hurling a Roman bust at the Chiaramonti Museum and damaging another bust. Il Messaggero reported that the man damaged the artefacts in anger after he was informed that he could not have an audience with Pope Francis as part of his vacation wish. The museum's press director Matteo Alessandrini said one bust lost part of a nose and an ear, while the other was knocked off its pedestal. Conservation and repair works on the sculptures were estimated to cost 15,000 euros ($14,800 US) and took about 300 hours to be completed. [29]

See also

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Further reading