The Vatican museums
The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture,
purchased 500 years ago: the sculpture of Laocoön and his Sons was
discovered January 14, 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
The circular stairway
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.
The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by
permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the
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.The designer was
Luca Beltrami. The museum has paintings including:
- 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
- Filippo Lippi’s Marsuppini Coronation
Collection of modern religious art
The collection of modern religious art houses paintings and
sculptures from artists such as Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico.
The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding
the Cortile del Belvedere.
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
- 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.
- Sala degli Animali: So named because of the many ancient statues of
This museum is named after Pope Pius VII (whose last name was
Chiaramonti before his election as pope), who founded it in the early
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, andThe 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
However, it is opened only by special permission, usually for reasons
Museo Gregoriano Etrusco
Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, this museum has eight galleries
and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological
The pieces include: vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the Guglielmi
Museo Gregoriano Egiziano
Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1839, this museum houses a grand
collection of Ancient Egyptian material. Such material includes
papyruses, the Grassi Collection, animal mummies, and reproductions of
the famous Book of the Dead.
Vatican Historical Museum
The Vatican Historical Museum (Italian: 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 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.