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Vatican Museums
Musei Vaticani
Lightmatter vaticanmuseum.jpg
Sculptures above the entrance of museums
Vatican Museums is located in Rome
Vatican Museums
Location in Vatican City within Rome
Established 1506
Location Vatican City
Coordinates 41°54′23″N 12°27′16″E / 41.90639°N 12.45444°E / 41.90639; 12.45444Coordinates: 41°54′23″N 12°27′16″E / 41.90639°N 12.45444°E / 41.90639; 12.45444
Type Art museum
Visitors 5.5 million (2013)[1]
Ranking 5th globally (2013)[1]
Director Antonio Paolucci
Website www.museivaticani.va
The Vatican Museums, north of St. Peter's Basilica

The Vatican Museums (Italian: Musei Vaticani) are the museums of the Vatican City and are located within the city's boundaries. They display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries including some of the most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world.

Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. The Sistine Chapel with its ceiling decorated by Michelangelo and the Stanze della Segnatura decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. In 2013, they were visited by 5.5 million people, which combined makes it the 5th most visited art museum in the world.[1]

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


The staircase has two parts, a double helix, and is of shallow incline, being a stepped ramp rather than a true staircase. It is encircles the outer wall of a stairwell of approximately fifteen meters wide and with a clear space at the centre. The balustrade around the ramp is of ornately worked metal.
Spiral stairs of the Vatican Museums, designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932.

The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago: the sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons was discovered 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 of Laocoön and his sons on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.

The Museum Christianum was founded by Benedict XIV, and some of the Vatican collections formed the Lateran Museum, which Pius IX founded by decree in 1854.[2]

The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public.[3]

Pinacoteca Vaticana[edit]

The art gallery was housed in the Borgia Apartment, until Pope Pius XI ordered construction of a proper building. The new building was inaugurated on October 27, 1932.[4] The designer was Luca Beltrami. The museum has paintings including:

Collection of Modern Religious Art[edit]

The Collection of Modern Religious Art houses paintings and sculptures from artists like Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico.

Sculpture museums[edit]

The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding the Cortile del Belvedere.

Museo Pio-Clementino[edit]

Photo of a gallery in the museum. 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 New Wing, Braccio Nuovo built by Raphael Stern

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:

  • Greek Cross Gallery: (Sala a Croce Greca): with the porphyri sarcophagi of Constance and Saint Helen, daughter and mother of Constantine the Great.
  • Sala Rotonda: shaped like a miniature Pantheon, the room has impressive ancient mosaics on the floors, and ancient statues lining the perimeter, including a gilded bronze statue of Hercules.
  • Gallery of the Statues (Galleria delle Statue): as its name implies, holds various important statues, including Sleeping Ariadne and the bust of Menander. It also contains the Barberini Candelabra.
  • Gallery of the Busts (Galleria dei Busti): Many ancient busts are displayed.
  • Cabinet of the Masks (Gabinetto delle Maschere): The name comes from the mosaic on the floor of the gallery, found in Villa Adriana, which shows ancient theater masks. Along the walls, several famous statues are shown including the Three Graces.One wove the thread of life,second nurtured it, third cut it. They were created by Zeus ( ROMAN FORM:Jupiter)
  • Sala delle Muse: Houses the statue group of Apollo and the nine muses, uncovered in a Roman villa near Tivoli in 1774, as well as and statues by important ancient Greek or Roman sculptors. the center piece is Belvedere Torso, revered by Michelangelo and other Renaissance men.[5]
  • Sala degli Animali: So named because of the many ancient statues of animals.

Museo Chiaramonti[edit]

This museum is named after Pope Pius VII (whose last name was Chiaramonti before his election as pope), who founded it in the early 19th century. The museum consists of a large arched gallery in which sides are exhibited several statues, sarcophaguses and friezes. The New Wing, Braccio Nuovo built by Raphael Stern, houses important statues like The Prima Porta Augustus, Doryphorus, and The River Nile. Galeria Lapidaria is another part of Chiaramonti museum, with more than 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions, which is the world's greatest collection of its kind. However, it is opened only by special permission, usually for reasons of study.

Museo Gregoriano Etrusco[edit]

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, this museum has eight galleries and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations.[6] The pieces include: vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the Guglielmi Collection.

Museo Gregoriano Egiziano[edit]

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839, this museum houses a grand collection of Ancient Egyptian material.[7] Such material includes papyruses, the Grassi Collection, animal mummies, and reproductions of the famous Book of the Dead.[8]

Vatican Historical Museum[edit]

The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian: Museo storico vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI,[9] 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.[10]

Works in the Vatican museums[edit]

On the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum is open to the public for free. This is extremely popular and it is common for people to wait in line for many hours. The other days of the week you can use the online ticket office to purchase an individual ticket or group tour ticket, either of which will enable you to bypass the ticket line completely. This image is a panoramic view of one small stretch of the entire queue in April 2007, which continues for some distance in both directions beyond view.


Usually more than 4 million people visit the Museums every year. In 2011, the number of visitors reached 6 million. (by Editor Report Antonio Paolucci in "L'Osservatore Romano" of January 10, 2012)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Top 100 Art Museum Attendance, The Art Newspaper, 2014. Retrieved on 13 July 2014.
  2. ^ Wikisource-logo.svg "Christian Museums". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913. 
  3. ^ Guardian.co.uk
  4. ^ http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/PIN/PIN_Main.html
  5. ^ 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 9780870993480. 
  6. ^ http://mv.vatican.va/2_IT/pages/MGE/MGE_Main.html
  7. ^ http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MEZ/MEZ_Main.html
  8. ^ http://mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/x-Schede/MEZs/MEZs_Sala02_03.html
  9. ^ Guida ai musei e alla Città del Vaticano. Ediz. inglese (in Italian). Edizioni Musei Vaticani. 1986. ISBN 978-88-86921-11-4. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 
  10. ^ "Museo Storico Vaticano (San Giovanni)". 060608.it. Retrieved 9 May 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vatican_Museums — Please support Wikipedia.
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63 news items

New York Times

New York Times
Mon, 28 Jul 2014 09:01:28 -0700

In a telephone interview, Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, said his institution was in a bind: To safeguard the frescoes, attendance should not be allowed to increase, he said, but “the Sistine Chapel has a symbolic, religious ...

Art Newspaper

Wed, 02 Jul 2014 10:37:30 -0700

LED manufacturing giant Osram has extended its working relationship with the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy. Both parties have just signed a multi-year framework collaboration on possible future projects. Osram is already equipping the Vatican's ...


Wed, 23 Jul 2014 04:15:00 -0700

Our Skip the Line Access Vatican Tour gets you past long lines at the Vatican Museums, so you spend more time exploring the world's most incredible art collection and less time waiting outside. We visit all the highlights of the Vatican Museums – from ...

Tourism Travel Vacation News

Sun, 29 Jun 2014 01:22:28 -0700

Over six million people reportedly visit Vatican Museums annually, which originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513). It includes works of Raphael, Michelangelo, Giotto, Leonardo, Caravaggio, van Gogh, Matisse and Moore.

BBC News

Catholic Herald Online
Tue, 08 Jul 2014 08:33:45 -0700

The Vatican City State budget, which includes the income-generating Vatican Museums and Vatican stamp and coin office, ended 2013 with a profit of more than 33 million euros, the statement said. The figure is an increase of 10 million euros over its ...

Catholic World Report (blog)

Catholic World Report (blog)
Tue, 15 Jul 2014 18:18:45 -0700

“This exhibit has been made available to the public by the generosity of the Green Collection of the Green Family in cooperation with the Vatican Apostolic Library, the Vatican Museums, the American Bible Society, the Pontifical Biblical Institute, the ...
Religion News Service
Mon, 30 Jun 2014 13:03:46 -0700

The Institute for Religious Works, more commonly known as the Vatican bank, is housed inside the Bastion of NIcholas V, the rounded structure on the right, shown in this model of the Apostolic Palace at the Vatican Museums. Creative Commons image by ...
Daily Bhaskar
Sat, 19 Jul 2014 03:50:32 -0700

-The Vatican museums are over 9 miles (14,5 kilometers) long, and it is said that if you spent only 1 minute admiring each painting it would take you 4 years to complete the circuit! - Citizenship in the Vatican is not guaranteed by birth, but by ...

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