Theme Week Vatican City – Vatican Museums

Friday, 28 December 2018 - 12:00 pm (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Architecture, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  10 minutes

Main complex of the Vatican Museums © F. Bucher/cc-by-2.5

Main complex of the Vatican Museums © F. Bucher/cc-by-2.5

The Vatican Museums (Italian: Musei Vaticani; Latin: Musea Vaticana) are Christian and art museums located within the city boundaries of the Vatican City. They display works from the immense collection amassed by popes 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 2017, they were visited by 6 million people, which combined makes it the 5th most visited art museum in the world. There are 54 galleries, or sale, in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the very last sala within the Museum. It is one of the largest museums in the world. In 2017, the Museum’s official website and social media presence was completely redone, in accord with current standards and appearances for modern websites. The Museums had 6,427,277 visitors in 2017, making them the fourth-most-visited art museum in the world.

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.

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 has paintings including:

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.

The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding the Cortile del Belvedere. These are the Gregoriano Profano Museum, with classical sculpture, and others.

The Sistine Chapel © Antoine Taveneaux/cc-by-sa-3.0 Pinacoteca Vaticana © Sailko/cc-by-3.0 Bibliotheca Apostolica Vaticana - Sistine Hall © Maus-Trauden © Darafsh/cc-by-sa-3.0 © Darafsh/cc-by-sa-3.0 Vatican Museums Spiral Staircase © Colin/cc-by-sa-3.0 Gallery of Maps © Владимир Шеляпин/cc-by-sa-3.0 Sculptures above the entrance of Vatican Museums © Livioandronico2013/cc-by-sa-4.0 Main complex of the Vatican Museums © F. Bucher/cc-by-2.5
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Sculptures above the entrance of Vatican Museums © Livioandronico2013/cc-by-sa-4.0
The Museo Pio-Clementino takes its name from two popes; 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 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. 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.

The Museo Chiaramonti 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. The Galeria Lapidaria forms part of the Museo Chiaramonti, and contains over 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions. It is accessible only with special permission, usually for the purpose of academic study.

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco has eight galleries and houses important Etruscan pieces, coming from archaeological excavations. The pieces include: vases, sarcophagus, bronzes and the Guglielmi Collection.

The Museo Gregoriano Egiziano 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 Museo Gregoriano Egiziano was inaugurated on 2 February 1839 to commemorate the anniversary of Gregory XVI’s accession to the papacy. The creation of the Museo Gregoriano Egiziano 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.

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 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.

Other highlights in the museums are:

Here you can find the complete Overview of all Theme Weeks.

Read more on MuseiVaticani.va – Vatican Museums and Wikipedia Vatican Museums. Learn more about the use of photos. To inform you about latest news most of the city, town or tourism websites offer a newsletter service and/or operate Facebook pages/Twitter accounts. In addition more and more destinations, tourist organizations and cultural institutions offer Apps for your Smart Phone or Tablet, to provide you with a mobile tourist guide (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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