Vatican Museums Musei Vaticani
The Vatican Museums, which occupy much of the Vatican Palace, in Viale Vaticano, contain some of the world's greatest art collections. The history of the museums goes back to 1506, when Pope Julius II, pursuing the ideals of the Renaissance, began to collect ancient works of art. The collections were increased over the centuries from the territories of the Papal States, works of art presented to the Popes and items related to the work of the Roman Catholic Church. In addition there are works of art created specifically for the Vatican Palace, including the paintings in the Sistine Chapel and the Stanze di Raffaello. There are four tours of the museums marked with signs in different colors (one-way is indicated).
Vatican Museums Map
Official site: mv.vatican.va/3_EN/pages/MV_Home.html
Address: Viale Vaticano, Italy
Opening hours: 9am-6pm; Closed: Sun
Always closed on: Epiphany (3 Kings' Day ) - Christian (Jan 6), New Year's Day (Jan 1), May Day / Labor Day (May 1), Assumption Day - Christian (Aug 15), All Saints' Day - Christian (Nov 1), Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8), Christmas - Christian (Dec 25), Easter Monday - Christian, Ascension Thursday - Christian, 15th of Shaaban - 12th Iman's Birthday - Muslim, Easter - Christian
Entrance fee in EUR: Adult €15.00, Concession or reduced rate €8.00, Students €4.00
Useful tips: Open the last Sunday of every month, free entrance from 9 am to 12.30 pm; the Museums close at 2 pm unless it coincides with Easter Sunday, the 29th of June (St. Peter and Paul), 25th and 26th of December (Christmas and St. Stephen). Free entrance also the 27th of September (World day of Tourism). Visitors should be correctly attired (i.e. bare shoulders covered; shorts are not permitted).
Disability Access: Full facilities for persons with disabilities.
Transit: Metro: Ottaviano (line A); Bus: 23, 32, 49, 51, 64, 81, 492, 907, 990, 991, 994; shuttle service from Piazza San Pietro (south side); Tram: 19, 30.
The Pinacoteca, founded by Pius VI and later robbed of many of its treasures by Napoleon contains, in its 16 rooms, a collection of pictures ranging in date from the Middle Ages to the present day, giving an excellent survey of the development of Western painting. The pictures are arranged in chronological order.
Picture Gallery - Medieval Art
Vatican Museums Picture Gallery Room I: medieval art (Byzantine, Sienese, Umbrian and Tuscan), including a liturgical vestment (pluviale) which belonged to Pope Boniface VIII (13th century).
Picture Gallery - Triptych
Vatican Museums Picture Gallery Room II: triptych of Cardinal Stefaneschi (Giotto). Room III: "Madonna" and "St Nicholas of Bari" by Fra Angelico; triptych by Filippo Lippo. Room V: "Pietà" by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Room VII: "Coronation of the Virgin" by Pinturicchio; "Madonna" by Perugino.
Picture Gallery - Tapestries
Vatican Museums Picture Gallery Room VIII: tapestries from cartoons by Raphael, and Raphael's famous "Transfiguration" (1517; his last picture) and "Madonna of Foligno" (1512-13).
Picture Gallery - Potraits
Vatican Museums Picture Gallery Room IX: "St Jerome", an unfinished work by Leonardo da Vinci. Room X: "Madonna" by Titian. Room XII: "Entombment" by Caravaggio. Room XIV: Dutch and Flemish masters (school of Rubens). Room XV: portraits of Popes.
The Egyptian Museum in the Cortile della Pigna, re-founded by Pope Gregory XVI (the first collection having been assembled by Pius VIII), contains a small but valuable collection of Egyptian art from the third millennium to the sixth century B.C., including basalt and wooden sarcophagi, heads of gods and pharaohs, mummified heads, stelae, statues of gods and animals, and papyri.
The Museo Chiaramonti, founded by Pope Pius VII (1800-23), a member of the Chiaramonti family, is housed in a long gallery leading to the Papal palace and contains numerous works of Greek and Roman art, of varying quality. There are also works of Greek and Roman sculpture in the Galleria Lapidaria (not open to the public) and the Braccio Nuovo, which links the two long wings extending from the entrance to the museums to the Palazzi Vaticani. Notable items in the Braccio Nuovo are the Augustus of Prima Porta, a statue of the Emperor found in 1863 in the country villa of his wife Livia; a statue of the god of the Nile; and the Doryphorus ("Spear Carrier"), a copy of the work by Polycletus. In the Sala della Biga, near the entrance, are two Discus-Throwers, copies of works by Myron and Polycletus (fifth century B.C.) and a carriage and pair ("Biga" 1788) by Antonio Franzoni.
The Etruscan Museum, founded by Pope Gregory XVI (1831-46), contains, in its 18 rooms, works of art and everyday objects which throw light on the life of the Etruscans and their idea of the afterlife. The collection also includes Greek and Roman works. Particularly notable items are the rich grave goods from the Regolini-Galassi tomb at Cerveteri, the Mars of Todi, the Stele del Palestrita (from Attica; fifth century B.C.), a head of Athena and numerous fine vases.
Museum of Secular Art
The Museum of Secular Art was founded by Gregory XVI. Until 1963 it was housed, together with the Museo Pio Cristano and the Museo Epigrafico Cristano in the Lateran Palace. It now occupies a modern museum building adjoining the Pinacoteca which was built during the reigns of Popes John XXIII (1958-63) and Paul VI (1963-78). The works of ancient sculpture in this excellently arranged museum were mostly found in the territories of the Papal States. The collection includes Roman copies of Greek sculpture and originals of Roman Imperial sculpture - statues, reliefs, funerary monuments and sarcophagi, together with works of political and religious content.First section: Roman copies and re-workings of Greek originals (including Sophocles, fourth century B.C.); Niobe Chiaramonti; head of Athena; Marsia torso.Second section: Roman sculpture (first and early second century A.D., including a portrait of Livia, wife of Augustus).Third section: sarcophagi (including the sarcophagus from the Porta Viminalis).Fourth section: Roman sculpture (second and third centuries A.D., including a Mithras sculpture).
Judged by the value of its contents, the Vatican Library is the richest in the world. Since its foundation by Nicholas V in 1450 the library has been systematically built up, and now contains, in addition to books printed since the end of the 15th century, some 7,000 incunabula, 25,000 medieval hand-written books and 80,000 manuscripts. In the library hall, 70m/230ft long, built by Domenico Fontana, are cases displaying some of its greatest treasures - Biblical codices, illuminated Gospel books, finely printed books, valuable parchments and ancient papyri and scrolls.
Museum of Sacred Art
At the end of the long range housing the Vatican Library is the Museum of Sacred Art, containing material found during the excavation of catacombs and early Christian churches in Rome and the surrounding area. Pope Pius XI (1922-39) showed a particular interest in the smaller works of Christian art. In a side room is the "Aldobrandini Wedding" (Nozze Aldobrandine), a sensitively painted and well-preserved ancient fresco which was found about 1600 and until 1818 was kept in the Aldobrandini Gardens.
The Borgia Pope Alexander VI (1492-1503) had a private residence built for himself and his family within the Vatican Palace, and commissioned Pinturicchio to decorate it with wall and ceiling paintings. Between 1492 and 1495 the painter and his assistants and pupils painted a series of scenes, combining Renaissance, humanist and ancient themes with Christian subjects.First room: prophets and Sibyls. Second room: the Creed, with prophets and Apostles. Third room: allegories of the seven liberal arts. Fourth room: legends of saints. Fifth room: scenes from the life of Christ and the Virgin. The Papal portraits formerly in the sixth room have not survived.
These rooms above the Appartamento Borgia, built by Pope Nicholas V, contain a magnificent series of frescoes by Raphael, who was commissioned by the art-loving Pope Julius II in 1508 to repaint the rooms. Raphael, in re-discovering the traditions of historical painting, established a trend in art which was to be followed in subsequent centuries. As a classicist he adhered to strict compositional symmetry in the frescoes. The characters are positioned, according to their roles in the story, around a perspectival and pictorial focal point, usually in the center of the picture.The Stanza della Segnatura and the Stanza di Eliodoro are both by Raphael's own hand: the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo was executed by his pupils under his supervision; the Stanza di Constantino was painted after Raphael's death by Guilio Romano and Gian Francesco Penni.Room 1 (Sala dell'Incendio di Borgo, Room of the Burning of the Borgo): Ceiling painting by Perugino and four paintings of historical scenes by pupils of Raphael (1517 onwards); Leo IV and the burning of the Borgo (the district around St Peter's) in 847; coronation of Charlemagne by Leo III in 800; Leo IV's naval victory over the Saracens off Ostia in 849; and Leo III's oath (denying false accusations) in 800. These paintings commemorating his predecessors of the same name were commissioned by Pope Leo X (1513-21).Room 2: (Sala della Segnatura, the meeting place of an ecclesiastical tribunal): The frescoes in this room, painted by Raphael in 1508-11, represent the supreme achievement of Renaissance painting. They depict the culture of the period in all its richness and splendor. The Disputa del Sacramento, a theological disputation on the doctrine of transubstantiation, depicts the world of religious faith. In the lower zone, around the altar, are Popes, bishops, teachers and theologians, including Pope Innocent III, St Bonaventure and Dante. Above them, under God the Father are Christ with the Virgin and John the Baptist, attended by saints. The Scuola d'Atene (School of Athens), set in the newly built St Peter's, represents the field of the natural sciences - attainable without divine revelation - and depicts representatives of philosophy (the two central figures, Plato and Aristotle, together with Socrates), architecture (Bramante), history (Xenophon) and mathematics (Archimedes, Pythagoras, Euclid), together with Raphael himself (in the corner, second from right). Above one window is an associated scene depicting Parnassus, with Apollo playing a violin, the blind Homer, the Muses and other ancient poets (Virgil, Sappho, Ovid, Catullus and Horace). Above the other are a scene depicting the glorification of canon and civil law and allegorical representations of the virtues of Prudence and Temperance. On the ceiling, corresponding to the scenes on the walls below, are allegories of theology, philosophy, poetry and justice.Room 3 (Sala d'Eliodoro, Room of Heliodorus): The paintings by Raphael in this room (1512-14) show still greater expressive power and a livelier sense of movement than those in the Sala della Segnatura. They depict four scenes: Leo the Great repulsing Attila, the Mass of Bolsena (in which an unbelieving priest was convinced of the truth of the doctrine of transubstantiation), the expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple and the liberation of St Peter from prison, Raphael's first depiction of a night scene, with effective use of light. As in the "Mass of Bolsena" the dungeon scene consists of three events which flow into each other without disrupting the unity of the picture.Room 4 (Sala di Constantino, Room of Constantine) The painting dates almost entirely from the reign of Clement VII, after Raphael's death. On the long wall is a fine picture by pupils of Raphael of Constantine's victory over Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge, with the scene depicting Constantine's vision of the Cross. Other scenes include Constantine's baptism and the "Presentation by Constantine".
Nicholas V's Chapel
Nicholas V's Chapel, near the Stanze di Raffaello, has frescoes by Fra Beato Angelico on the life and martyrdom of SS Stephen and Lawrence (1447-49).
The Map Gallery, 120m/395ft long, has maps of all the different parts of Italy, often with views of cities and prospects of scenery (1580-83). The maps, originating from the studio of Antonio Dantes, contain valuable cartographical detail and were designed to be used as decoration for a palace.
Gallery of Cadelabras and Tapestries
Beyond the Map Gallery (when coming from the Vatican palace) is the gallery of Cadelabras and Tapestries, with valuable tapestries of the 15th-17th centuries and Roman marble candelabras.
The Museo Profano has a collection of secular art which includes a variety of Etruscan, Roman and medieval material.
Museo Pio Cristino
The Museo Pio Cristino, founded by Pope Pius IX in 1854, contains material which until 1963 was housed in the Lateran Palace. There are two sections, one devoted to architecture, sculpture and mosaics, the other to inscriptions.
Museo Missionario Etnologico
Objects brought back from the various mission fields of the Church were originally (from 1927 onwards) displayed in the Palazzo Laterno. Pope Pius XI directed that they should be brought together in a systematic arrangement, and in 1970 all material of interest (to scholars as well as to the general public) was transferred to the Museo Missionario Etnologico.
Museo delle Carroze
The coach museum, opened in 1973, is housed in a building under the Giardino Quadrato (Square Garden), near the Pinacoteca. The museum contains the Papal carriages (including the coach of Pope Leo XII), vintage cars and a model of the jet in which Pope Paul VI flew to the UN.
Collezione d'Arte Religiosa Moderna
Pope Paul VI (1963-78) was interested in modern religious art and made available 55 rooms in the Vatican for the display of works of art presented to the Popes or acquired by them. The collection contains more than 800 works by artists of many different countries, including Rodin, Barlach, Matisse, Modigliani, Kokoschka, Dali, Munch, Vlaminck, Feininger, Ernst Beckmann, Nolde, Le Corbusier, Kadinsky, de Chirico, Greco, Marini, Rouault, Hartung, Hansing and Sutherland.