Vatican Museums

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Vatican Museums
Musei Vaticani
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The Vatican Museums as seen from the dome of St. Peter's Basilica
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Location of the Vatican Museums within Vatican City
Established1506;514 years ago (1506)
Location 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]
Visitors6,882,931 (2019) [2]
Director Barbara Jatta [3]
Website Official website
The Vatican Museums, north of St. Peter's Basilica Vatican City map EN.png
The Vatican Museums, north of St. Peter's Basilica

The Vatican Museums (Italian : Musei Vaticani; Latin : Musea Vaticana) are the public art and sculpture museums in 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 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, [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 decorated by Michelangelo and the Stanze di Raffaello decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. In 2019, they were visited by 6,882,931 persons, which combined made them the third most visited art museum in the world. [6] They are one of the largest museums in the world.

There are 54 galleries, or sale, in total,[ citation needed ] with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the last sala within the Museum.


Sculptures above the entrance of the Vatican Museums Lightmatter vaticanmuseum.jpg
Sculptures above the entrance of the Vatican Museums

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.

Benedict XIV founded the Museum Christianum, and some of the Vatican collections formed the Lateran Museum, which Pius IX founded by decree in 1854. [7]

The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public. [8]

On 1 January 2017, Barbara Jatta became the Director of the Vatican Museums, replacing Antonio Paolucci who had been director since 2007. [9] [10]

Pinacoteca Vaticana

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. [11] 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 artists like Carlo Carrà, Giorgio de Chirico, Vincent van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Marc Chagall, Paul Klee, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso. [12]

Sculpture museums

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:

Pio-Clementino Museum

The Prima Porta Augustus Statue-Augustus.jpg
The Prima Porta Augustus
A Roman naval bireme depicted in a relief from the Temple of Fortuna Primigenia in Praeneste (Palestrina), constructed c. 120 BC; exhibited in the Pio-Clementino Museum of the Vatican. 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; exhibited in the Pio-Clementino Museum of the Vatican.

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. [15]

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:

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

Chiaramonti Museum

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. It is in the Classical style and has a wide arched roof with skylights. The colour scheme is blue-grey and white with a polychrome marble floor. The walls of each side of the gallery have a row of large niches in which stand marble statues. Between the niches are plinths supporting smaller portrait sculptures. The Galeria Lapidaria forms part of the Chiaramonti Museum, and contains over 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions. It is accessible only with special permission, usually for the purpose of academic study.

Gregoriano Etrusco Museum

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, this museum has eight galleries and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations. [17] The pieces include vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the Guglielmi Collection.

Gregoriano Egiziano Museum

This museum houses a large collection of artifacts from Ancient Egypt. [18] Such material includes papyruses, the Grassi Collection, animal mummies, and reproductions of the Book of the Dead . [19]

The Gregoriano Egiziano Museum was inaugurated on 2 February 1839 to commemorate the anniversary of Gregory XVI's accession to the papacy. The creation of the Gregoriano Egiziano Museum 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. [15]

Statue of the Nile recumbent 1st-2nd Century AD, from Rome Gregoriano Egiziano Museum Statue of the Nile recumbent.jpg
Statue of the Nile recumbent 1st-2nd Century AD, from Rome Gregoriano Egiziano Museum

Vatican Historical Museum

The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian : Museo storico vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI, [20] 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. [21]

Highlights from the Painting Collection

Other highlights in the museum

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


The Museums had 6,427,277 visitors in 2017, making them the fourth-most-visited art museum in the world. [22]

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.
Former entrance (now an exit) to the Vatican Museums, Vatican City Vatican Museums entrance.jpg
Former entrance (now an exit) to the Vatican Museums, Vatican City

See also

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Cortile del Belvedere

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Colonna Venus

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Hermes (Museo Pio-Clementino) sculpture in the Museo Pio-Clementino

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.

Barberini Hera

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This is an index of Vatican City–related topics.

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Antonio Paolucci Italian art historian

Antonio Paolucci is an Italian art historian and curator. In 2007 he was appointed director of the Vatican Museums by Pope Benedict XVI, a post he held until 2017 when he was replaced by his former deputy, Barbara Jatta. Throughout his career Paolucci has worked also in Florence, Venice, Verona, Mantua and other Italian cities in national art and cultural institutions. He has written many books and articles on art history and made television appearances on a variety of programs to explain and promote art. He is the recipient of numerous awards for his work.


  1. 1 2 "Meet Antonio Paolucci". Divento. Archived from the original on 2016-12-29. Retrieved 2016-12-28.
  2. The Art Newspaper, April 9, 2020
  3. Troszczynska, Katarzyna (1 January 2017). "To ona rządzi w Watykanie. Kim jest Barbara Jatta?" [Who is Barbara Jatta? She is the director of the Vatican] (in Polish). Virtual Poland. Retrieved 2017-08-29.
  4. Jatta, Barbara (16 October 2016). "The Vatican Museums: transformation of an organisation" (PDF). Vatican Museums. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  5. Bianchini, Riccardo (30 August 2017). "Vatican Museums - Rome". Inexhibit. Retrieved 30 August 2017.
  6. The Art Newspaper visitor survey, April 9, 2020.
  7. Herbermann, Charles, ed. (1913). "Christian Museums"  . Catholic Encyclopedia . New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  8. McMahon, Barbara (10 October 2006). "Ancient Roman treasures found under Vatican car park". The Guardian . Manchester. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  9. Glatz, Carol (20 December 2016). "Pope names first woman to head Vatican Museums". The Catholic Herald . Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  10. Rykner, Didier (7 December 2007). "Antonio Paolucci, the new Director of the Vatican Museums". The Art Tribune. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  11. "Pinacoteca". Vatican Museums. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  12. "The Vatican Museums". Vatican City State. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  13. Saddington, D.B. (2011). "Classes: the Evolution of the Roman Imperial Fleets Plate 12.2 on p. 204". In Erdkamp, Paul (ed.). A Companion to the Roman Army. Malden: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 201–217. ISBN   978-1-4051-2153-8.
  14. Coarelli, Filippo (1987). I Santuari del Lazio in età repubblicana [The Sanctuaries of Lazio in the Republican age] (in Italian). Carocci. pp. 35–84.
  15. 1 2 Bertoldi, Susanna (2011). The Vatican Museum: Discover the history, the works of art, the collections. Vatican City: Sillabe. pp. 46, 96. ISBN   978-88-8271-210-5.
  16. Montebello, Philippe De; Kathleen Howard (1983). "Sala delle Muse". The Vatican: Spirit and Art of Christian Rome . Metropolitan Museum of Art. pp.  178–180. ISBN   978-08-70993480.
  17. "Museo Gregoriano Etrusco". Vatican Museums. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  18. "Gregorian Egyptian Museum". Vatican Museums. Retrieved 2014-08-21.
  19. "Monuments exhibited in Room II of the Egyptian Museum". Archived from the original on 5 July 2011.
  20. Guide to the Vatican Museums and City. Musei Vaticani. 1986. ISBN   978-88-86921-11-4 . Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  21. "Museo Storico Vaticano (San Giovanni)". Roma Capitale. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  22. The Art Newspaper Review, April 2018

Further reading