Vatican Museums, Italy

Rome’s Vatican City is a destination like no other for a number of reasons. Not only is it the Christian capital of the world, but it also welcomes several million visitors each year. One of the most significant aspects of Vatican City is its museums.

Vatican Museums

With 54 total galleries, making up 1400 rooms, the Vatican City houses the largest collection of art worldwide.

The Collection in the Vatican Museums

The collection is so extensive, in fact, that placed end to end it would reach a staggering length of 9 miles, enough to encompass the Vatican’s walls more than four times. While the quantity of art truly is impressive, the quality of the art is what people visit the Vatican Museums for. Housing works from the greatest masters, Michelangelo, Raphael and many more, the museums of the Vatican should be destination number one for absolutely any art lover around the globe. These museums house some of the most significant classical sculptures on earth, as well as displaying important masterpieces of the renaissance art movement. Each artwork was sourced by different Popes over the centuries, ensuring only the most exceptional artworks be displayed. One of the more fascinating artworks is the sculpture that all the Vatican Museums can be traced back to.

Explore the Vatican Museums

Vatican Museum, Italy

Founded by Pope Julius II in the early 1500s, the first of the art pieces was sourced and purchased. More than 500 years ago, the Pope found a statue known as Laocoön and His Sons in a vineyard near Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, and bought the first of today’s 70,000 artworks in the Vatican. However, only 20 000 of these artworks are on display to the public. That being said, for you to explore every one of the Vatican Museums’ 1400 rooms could take weeks. To ensure you make the most of your time in the Vatican Museums, be sure to visit two of the most popular buildings, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel, and the Stanza di Rafaello, these sites were visited by more than 6 million people in 2017 alone, making the Vatican Museums the 4th most visited across the globe. Another notable site is St Peter’s Basilica. This phenomenal building is an artwork in itself, and is known to be the largest Catholic Church in the world.

The Raphael Rooms

Raphael Rooms

Commissioned by Pope Julius the 2nd the four rooms of his apartment are one of the most impressive sights of the Vatican Museums and are a stunning example of the work by Renaissance artist, Raphael. The Pope had planned on his apartment being decorated by a selection of artists but when he saw the work of 25-year-old Raphael, he commissioned him immediately. The work began in 1508 but Raphael was often taken away from the project to work on St. Peter’s Basilica. The artist died in 1520, before the Pope’s apartment could be completed and so it was finished by his assistants.

The four rooms are named as ‘Constantine’, ‘Heliodorus’, ‘Segnatura’, and ‘Room of the Fire in Borgo’. The Room of Constantine was to be used for receptions and was named after the first Christian emperor to recognise the Christian faith and the four walls are painted with different chapters of his life. The Room of Heliodorus was used for private audiences and was decorated by Raphael before his death. The paintings are political and display historical moments from the Old Testament up to Medieval history. The most famous works are found within the Room of the Segnatura. The frescoes here were the first created by Raphael and mark the beginning of the high renaissance. The Room of the Fire is named after one of the frescoes, The Fire in the Borgo, which shows Leo the 4th extinguishing a fire by making the sign of the cross. A walk between these rooms will leave you in no doubt of the magnificence of Raphael’s talent and vision.

Sistine Chapel

A triumph of Renaissance art, the ceilings of the Sistine chapel draw millions of tourists each year. Crane your neck towards the sky and marvel at the astounding work created by Michelangelo. Primarily a sculptor, Michelangelo painted the frescoes between 1508-1512 and the images almost look as though they are sculptures with their supreme levels of detail and shade. The nine scenes that stretch along the central section of the ceiling are framed by columns that look like they could be sculptural rather than painted. Within the nine scenes are depictions of religious stories such as the ‘Drunkenness of Noah’, the ‘Temptation and Expulsion of Adam and Eve’ and perhaps, most famously, the ‘Creation of Adam’. To have seen these beautiful paintings is to have seen some of the best artwork in the world.

Other galleries to visit in the museums

The Gallery of the Candelabra is a 262ft long corridor lined with ancient Roman replicas of Greek statues dating back to the 2nd and 3rd centuries BC. The ceilings are also noteworthy, having been elaborately painted between 1883-1887 at the request of Pope Leo XIII. The gallery takes its name from the massive candelabras which divide the gallery into its six sections along with the marble columns.

If you’d like to see a different type of wall painting, then the Gallery of Maps will astound you with its geographical depictions. Pope Gregory the 13th commissioned the 40 frescoes of maps which adorn the walls so that he could explore his territories. It is the largest collection of geographical pictures ever created and the frescoes overhead depict events that occurred in each of the related territories.

There truly are few other destinations on earth in which to explore such an extensive collection of the greatest works of all time. A tour of the Vatican Museums is an absolute must on any trip to Rome.

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