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The Saint Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums

Tesoro di S. Pietro Museum

Saint Peter's Basilica

The Vatican Necropoli

Vatican Museums

Museo Gregoriano-Egizio

Museo Gregoriano-Etrusco

Musei Gregoriano-Profano,

               Pio Cristiano and Missionario-Etnologico

Museo Pio-Clementino

Pinacoteca

Collezione d'Arte Religiosa Moderna

Vatican Palaces

Stanze di Raffaello Loggia di Raffaello

Cappella di Niccolò V

Appartamento Borgia 

Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel)

Other Galleries and Museums

Galleria dei Candelabri
Galleria degli Arazz
Galleria delle Carte Geografiche
Museo delle Carrozze

Giardini Vaticani (Vatican Gardens)

 

The Vatican Museums are the public art and sculpture museums in the Vatican City, which display works from the extensive collection of the Roman Catholic Church. The complex houses a 500-year-old art collection which are the destination of more than four million visitors each year.

Saint Peter's Basilica          

Visiting hours:
Basilica, 7am-7pm (winter 6pm); Dome, 8 to sunset.

St. Peter's Square, one of the most beautiful and famous in the world, is surrounded by Bernini's imposing colonnade that seems to "embrace" it with its 284 columns (1656-67). In the center stands a 26-meter tall Egyptian obelisk from Heliopolis; at its sides two beautiful fountains by Maderno and D. Fontana; everything is grandiose and at the same time extremely harmonious. In the background, the massive structure of the Basilica with its gigantic façade (114 meters by 45). From the year 1452, when B. Rossellino undertook the construction, many architects among the most illustrious of their times contributed to make the new temple of Christianity the most majestic in the world: Bramante, Giuliano da Sangallo, Raphael, Antonio da Sangallo the Younger, Michelangelo, Pirro Ligorio, Vignola, Della Porta, D. Fontana and Maderno. The new St. Peter's Church was consecrated by Pope Urban VIII in 1626. The vestibule introduces to the 5 bronze doors: the last one to the right is the Holy Door, and it is only opened in occasion of Jubilees.

The interior, extending for 186 meters, culminates under the dome with the Confession Altar and the Papal Altar (covered with the sumptuous bronze baldachin by Bernini) and the apse, aglow with golden mosaic. In addition to many sculptures and monuments by Bernini and other great artists, do not miss to contemplate Michelangelo's tender, touching "Pietà" (first chapel on the right). It is worthwhile to climb up to the Dome designed by Bramante and Michelangelo and completed by C. Della Porta and D. Fontana in 1589.

   

Tesoro di S. Pietro Museum                

Visiting hours:
9am-6:30pm;
Oct. to March, 9am-2:30pm

The entrance is from the interior of the Basilica. Of great historic and artistic interest, it houses sacred vestments and precious objects offered to the Vatican Basilica. Fine ciborium by Donatello; monument to Pope Sixtus IV by Pollaiolo: the "Sarcophagus of Giunio Basso"; the Cross of the Emperor Justin II (6th c.).

   

The Vatican Grottoes                

Visiting hours:
7am-6pm (winter 5:30pm).

The Vatican Grottoes, underneath the Basilica, form an interesting monumental complex, containing 2,000 years of historical, civil and Christian memories.

Among other exhibits: Early-Christian sarcophagi, remains of the ancient 4th-c. church, works by Melozzo da Forlì, Pollaiolo, Arnolfo; mosaics (one attributed to Giotto), tombs of various Popes and of the queen Christine of Sweden.

   

The Vatican Necropoli                

Visiting hours:
Open weekdays 9am -noon and 2-5pm

Below the Grottoes and basilica spreads a pagan necropolis with Christian tombs. To visit the Necropolis address a written request to the "Ufficio Scavi della Rev.da Fabbrica di S. Pietro", Arco delle Campane.

   
  Vatican Museums                

Visiting hours:
Open: 9am-2pm;
July, Aug., Sept. and Easter 8:45am-5pm;
Last Sun. of the month 9am-2pm;

The astonishingly rich collections - a veritable citadel of museums - offer the opportunity to follow every itinerary of art and history. Some departments sometimes are are closed for rearrangement or restoration: scholars who wish to visit them may apply to the Direction.
We list below the sectors in which the museums are divided:
   

Museo Gregoriano-Egizio                

Important findings from ancient Egypt: mummies, sarcophagi, sculptures, bronzes, steles, Roman statues inspired to the Egyptian art (from Hadrian's Villa); also documentation on Mesopotamia, Assyria and Palestine.

   

Museo Gregoriano-Etrusco                

Oedipus and the Sphinx

Founded by Gregory XVI in 1837, it contains items from Southern Etruria and other archeological material: sarcophagi, materials from burial chambers, bronzes, urns, architectural terracotta, all kinds of vases; Roman glassware; Etruscan and Roman objects. Also some Greek originals such as a beautiful fragment from the Parthenon.

   
Musei Gregoriano-Profano, Pio Cristiano and Missionario-Etnologico                

Sambun (Hook) - Papua New Guinea

These museums contain the most recent sections where the collections of the former Lateran Museums are arranged. The Gregoriano-Profano holds architectural fragments, mosaics, sarcophagi, relieves and other valuable items of the Greek and Roman period; in the epigraphy section there is the richest collection of Christian inscriptions from the ancient cemeteries of Rome, Ostia and Porto). The Pio Cristiano houses Christian antiquities from the catacombs. The third museum features ethnographic collections with noteworthy items from China, Tibet, Japan and Polynesia.

   
Museo Pio-Clementino                

Laocoonte

The museum displays a splendid collection of Greek and Roman sculptures; among them, some of the best-known statues in the world: the "Apollo Belvedere", "Hermes", the famous group "Laocoon" (late-Hellenic work by sculptors from Rhodes). "Meleager", "the Sleeping Ariadne", "Wounded Amazon", the "Cnidia Venus", the "Belvedere Torso", a series of busts, sarcophagi, reliefs, vases, mosaics and three statues by Canova.

   
Pinacoteca                

Melozzo da Forlì - Angel playing musical instrument

Started in the late 1700s by Pope Pius V the gallery features a huge collection of paintings, mainly by Italian artist (from the Byzantine period to the 18th c., with special attention to Renaissance and Baroque) and 10 remarkable tapestries manufactured in Bruxelles in 1515 from Raphael's designs. Here again we find great names: Giotto, Lorenzetti, S. Martini, Daddi, L. Monaco, Gentile da Fabriano, Angelico, Filippo Lippi, Gozzoli, Melozzo da Forlì (beautiful "Musician Angels"), Palmezzano, de Roberti, Crivelli, N. Alunno, Perugino, A. Vivarini, Pinturicchio, Raphael (among other works, the unfinished "Transfiguration", completed by his assistants), Leonardo, Giambellino, Veronese, Moretto, Vasari, Carracci, Domenichino, Caravaggio ("Deposition"), Reni, Guercino, Crespi, Titian. Also foreign artists: Cranach, Poussin, van Dyck, Ribera, Lawrence.

   
Collezione d'Arte Religiosa Moderna                

Some 800 paintings, sculptures and graphic works, donated to the Holy See by artists and collectors from all over the world: Goya, Morandi, De Pisis, Sironi, Modigliani, Rosai, Carrà, Soffici, Matisse, Rouault, Gauguin, Utrillo, Chagall, Redon, Braque, Klee, Moore, Casorati, De Chirico, Munch, Campigli, Leger, Foujita, Ben Shahn, Feininger, Nolde, Severini, Dali, Ortega, Bacon, Picasso (pottery). Among the sculptors: Manzù, Minguzzi, Greco, Marini, Messina, Rodin.

   
Vatican Palaces                
Visiting hours:
Open: 9am-2pm;
July, Aug., Sept. and Easter 8:45am-5pm;
Last Sun. of the month 9am-2pm;
 
The palaces themselves form an irregular mass of three-story and four-story buildings, built on long, plain lines and broken by additions and alterations. The papal residence and offices occupy the portion near the colonnade, and the rest is given over to museums and the Vatican Library.
Stanze di Raffaello                

The School of Athens (Raphael portrait)

The Four Raphael Rooms were decorated by Perugino, Lotto, Sodoma and Peruzzi . In 1508 Pope Julius 11 commissioned Raphael to complete the works. The result is one of the masterpieces of painting of all times. The scenes represent: "Fire in Borgo", "Dispute of the Sacrament", "School of Athens', the "Pamassus', "Pope Leo stops Attila", "Miracle of Bolsena", "Heliodorus banished from the Temple", "Liberation of S. Peter From Prison", famous for the effects of light; after Raphael's death in 1520 the frescoes of the last ball were completed by Giulio Romano, the most renowned of his pupils, and by F. Penni.

   
Loggia di Raffaello                
Raphael and Donato Bramante worked on the loggia, frescoed with "Scenes of the Old and New Testament".
   
Cappella di Niccolò V                
You pass into the chapel of Nicholas V through the Chiaroscuro Room and Constantine's Room. The enchanting frescoes by Fra Angelico depict scenes of the lives of St. Laurence and St. Stephen.
   
Appartamento Borgia                
The residence was named after Pope Alexander VI Borgia, who lived in it and commissioned Pinturicchio and his pupils to decorate it (1492-95). The rooms are included in a complex of 55 halls where the Modern Collection is housed (see below).
   
Cappella Sistina (Sistine Chapel)                

Sistina Chapel - The Creation of AdamThe Popes' official private chapel, where election conclaves are held, is a gem among gems. Built under Sixtus IV in 1475-81, it owes its fame to the extraordinary frescoes that decorate it. On the side walls the greatest Renaissance artists (Pinturicchio, Perugino, Botticelli, Rosselli, Ghirlandaio, Signorelli, Piero di Cosimo) narrated the events of the "Lives of Moses and Jesus". In 1508 Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to fresco the chapel's ceiling. The result is "The Creation of the Universe" and the "History of Humanity", a stunningly harmonious composition with myriads of figures, in a miraculous synthesis of plastic, architectural and pictorial elements. Decades later Pope Paul III ordered the aged artist to decorate the wall above the altar: between 1535 and 1541 Michelangelo painted the dramatic scenes of "The Last Judgment": among a crowd of 293 figures, Christ sits as the Supreme Judge of Good and Evil. The incomparable ensemble, stemmed from the Florentine's titanic genius, is considered by visitors of all times the highlight of their journey to Rome.

   

Other Galleries and Museums                

Galleria dei Candelabri                
The gallery is about 80 meters long, it is subdivided by arcades from which hang pairs of candelabra; it contains also Greek and Roman statues and sculptures.

Galleria degli Arazzi
                
Magnificent 16th-c. Flemish tapestries executed from Raphael's designs.

Galleria delle Carte Geografiche
                
The 120-meter long gallery is hung with interesting maps.

Museo delle Carrozze
                
Sedan-chairs, coaches of Popes and prelates, uniforms and documents of the pontifical army corps, the first automobiles used by the Popes.

   
Giardini Vaticani (Vatican Gardens)                

Italian style gardens laid out in the 16th c., with thickets, lawns, fountains, artificial grottoes. The beautiful fountains "of the Kite" and "of the Sacrament" are by the Dutch architect C. Vasanzio; of special architectural interest is the splendid "Casina di Pio IV", built in 1558 by Pirro Ligorio and Sallustio Peruzzi (two stucco-decorated buildings with columns and statues).

(for guided visits and reservations, which should be made some days in advance, inquire with "Ufficio Informazioni Pellegrini e Turisti". Piazza San Pietro)

  For more information:
Vatican Museums official web site
                

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