The Vatican Museums ( it|Musei Vaticani; la|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, and currently employ 640 people who work in 40 different administrative, scholarly, and restoration departments. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. 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 2020 they were visited by 1,300,00 persons, a drop of 81 percent from the number of visitors in 2019, but enough to rank them fourth among the most visited art museums in the world. There are 54 galleries, or ''sale'', in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the last sala within the Museum.


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. The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public. On 1 January 2017, Barbara Jatta became the Director of the Vatican Museums, replacing Antonio Paolucci who had been director since 2007.

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. The museum's paintings include: * Giotto's Stefaneschi Triptych * Olivuccio di Ciccarello, ''Opere di Misericordia'' * Raphael's ''Madonna of Foligno'', ''Oddi Altarpiece'' and ''Transfiguration'' * Leonardo da Vinci's '' St. Jerome in the Wilderness'' * Caravaggio's ''Entombment'' * Perugino's ''Madonna and Child with Saints'' and ''San Francesco al Prato Resurrection'' * Filippo Lippi's ''Marsuppini Coronation'' * Jan Matejko's ''Sobieski at Vienna''

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.

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

thumb|A Roman naval bireme_depicted_in_a_[[relief_from_the_Temple_of_[[Fortuna_(mythology).html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="relief.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="bireme depicted in a bireme_depicted_in_a_[[relief_from_the_Temple_of_[[Fortuna_(mythology)">Fortuna_Primigenia_in_[[Praeneste.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="relief">bireme depicted in a [[relief from the Temple of [[Fortuna (mythology)">Fortuna Primigenia in [[Praeneste">relief">bireme depicted in a [[relief from the Temple of [[Fortuna (mythology)">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; [[Pope Clement XIV|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. 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 porphyry 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. Statues are displayed along the walls, including the ''Three Graces''. * 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 statues by important ancient Greek or Roman sculptors. The centerpiece is the Belvedere Torso, revered by Michelangelo and other Renaissance men. * Sala degli Animali: so named because of the many ancient statues of animals.

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 1837, this museum has nine galleries and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations. The pieces include vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the ''Guglielmi Collection''.

Gregoriano Egiziano Museum

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

Vatican Historical Museum

The Vatican Historical Museum ( it|Museo storico vaticano) was founded in 1973 at the behest of Pope Paul VI, 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.

Highlights from the painting collection

File:Leonardo, san girolamo.jpg|Leonardo da Vinci
''Saint Jerome in the Wilderness (Leonardo)'', 103 x 75 cm File:Giotto. The Stefaneschi Triptych (recto) c.1330 220x245cm. Pinacoteca, Vatican..jpg|Giotto di Bondone
Stefaneschi Triptych, 224 x 245 cm File:Pala di pesaro 08, pietà, pinacoteca vaticana.jpg|Giovanni Bellini
''Pieta'', 106 x 84 cm File:Raffaello Sanzio - The Crowning of the Virgin (Oddi Altarpiece) - WGA18609.jpg|Raphael
''The Crowning of the Virgin'', Oddi Altarpiece, 272 x 165 cm File:Transfiguration Raphael.jpg|Raphael
''Transfiguration'', 405 x 278 cm File:MadonnaFoligno.jpg|Raphael
''Madonna of Foligno'', 320 x 194 cm File:Titian madonna of frari vatican.jpg|Titian
''Frari Madonna'', 338 x 270 cm File:Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio - The Entombment - WGA04148.jpg|Caravaggio
''The Entombment of Christ'', 300 x 203 cm File:The Vision of St Helena veronese2.jpg|Veronese
''The Vision of St. Helen'', 166 x 134 cm File:Christ In Glory - Correggio - Pinacoteca Vaticana.jpg|Correggio
''Christ in Glory'', 105 x 98 cm File:Australia occidentale, munja, walcott, dipinto di wandjina (spirito creatore), 1920 ca..JPG|Artist from the Walcott Inlet area, Western Australia
Depiction of ''Wandjina'' File:Pietro_Perugino_cat41b.jpg|Perugino
''Decemviri Altarpiece'', 193 x 165 cm File:The Adoration of the Magi - Rafael.jpg|Raphael
''Adoration of the Magi''
27 x 50 cm File:Raphael - The Annunciation (Oddi altar).jpg|Raphael
27 x 50 cm File:Raphael Presentation in the Temple.jpg|Raphael
''Presentation in the Temple''
27 x 50 cm

Other highlights in the museum

* The red marble papal throne, formerly in the Basilica di San Giovanni in Laterano; * Roman sculpture, tombstones, and inscriptions, including the Early Christian Sarcophagus of Junius Bassus and Dogmatic sarcophagus, and the epitaph of Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus; * The Raphael Rooms with many works by Raphael and his workshop, including the masterpiece ''The School of Athens'' (1509–1511) * The Niccoline Chapel * The Sistine Chapel, including the Sistine Chapel ceiling (gallery) * The Gallery of Maps: topographical maps of the whole of Italy, painted on the walls by friar Ignazio Danti of Perugia, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII (1572–1585). It remains the world's largest pictorial geographical study. * The frescoes and other works in the Borgia Apartment built for Pope Alexander VI (Borgia). *The Bramante Staircase is a double spiral staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. The staircase has two parts, a double helix, and is of shallow incline, being a stepped ramp rather than a true staircase. It encircles the outer wall of a stairwell about wide and with a clear space at the centre. The balustrade around the ramp is of ornately worked metal.


See also

*Accademia, Venice *Index of Vatican City-related articles *List of most visited art museums *Uffizi, Florence *Vatican Gallery of Maps


Further reading

* G. Spinola, ''Il Museo Pio-Clementino'' (3 vols., 1996, 1999, 2004) * G. B. Visconti and E. Q. Visconti, ''Il Museo Pio-Clementino Descritto'' (8 vols., 1782–1792) * * Peter Rohrbacher
Völkerkunde und Afrikanistik für den Papst. Missionsexperten und der Vatikan 1922–1939
in: Römische Historische Mitteilungen 54 (2012), 583–610.

External links

Vatican Museums official on-line ticket office

On-line arts Catalogue

Vatican Museum's On-line bookshop
{{Authority control Category:1506 establishments in the Papal States Category:Art museums and galleries in Rome Category:Art museums established in 1506 Category:Museums in Vatican City Category:Museums of ancient Greece Category:Museums of ancient Rome Category:Museums of Dacia Category:National museums Category:National galleries Category:Organizations established in the 1500s Category:Vatican City culture Category:Double spiral staircases Category:Rome Q. XIV Trionfale Category:Christian museums