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Vatican Museums
Musei Vaticani
Established 1506
Location Vatican City
Visitor figures 4,310,083 (2008[1])
Director Antonio Paolucci
Website [1]

The Vatican Museums (Italian: Musei Vaticani), in Viale Vaticano in Rome, inside the Vatican City, are among the greatest museums in the world, since they display works from the immense collection built up by the Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries.

Pope Julius II founded the museums in the 16th century. The Sistine Chapel and the Stanze della Segnatura decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums.

As of 2007, they were visited by 4,310,083 people for the year[1].

Contents

Origins

The staircase has two parts, a double helix, and is of shallow incline, being a stepped ramp rather than a true staircase. It is encircles the outer wall of a stair well of approximately fifteen meters wide and with a clear space at the centre. The balustrade around the ramp is of ornately worked metal.
Staircase of the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago. The sculpture of Laocoön, the priest who, according to Greek mythology, tried to convince the people of ancient Troy not to accept the Greeks' "gift" of a hollow horse, was discovered 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 of Laocoön and his sons in the grips of a sea serpent on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.

The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public.[2]

Pinacoteca Art Gallery

The collection was first housed in the Borgia Apartment, until Pope Pius XI ordered construction of a proper building. The designer was Luca Beltrami. The museum has many famous paintings such as Raphael's Transfiguration, Leonardo da Vinci's Saint Jerome, Caravaggio's Deposition from the cross and Perugino's Madonna and Child with Saints.

Collection of Modern Religious Art

The Collection of Modern Religious Art houses paintings and sculptures from artists like Carlo Carrà and Giorgio de Chirico.

Sculpture museums

The group of museums includes several sculpture museums surrounding the Cortile del Belvedere.

Museo Pio-Clementino

Photo of a gallery in the museum. It is in the Classical style and has a wide arched roof with skylights. The colour scheme is are 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 New Wing, Braccio Nuovo built by Raphael Stern.

Pope Clement XIV founded the Pio-Clementino Vatican 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.

There are 54 galleries, or "salas" in total, with the Sistine Chapel, notably, being the very last sala within the Museum - visitors need to proceed through the other 53 salas before earning their reward with access to the Sistine. 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 Ariadne sleeping and Meander. 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. Along the walls, several famous statues are shown including the Three Graces.
  • Sala delle Muse: Houses the statue group of Apollo and the nine muses as well as statues by important ancient Greek sculptors.
  • Sala degli Animali: So named because of the many ancient statues of animals.

Museo Chiaramonti

This museum is named after Pope Pius VII (whose last name was Chiaramonti before his election as pope), who founded it in the early 1800s. 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 and The 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 its kind. However, it is opened only by special permission, usually for reasons of study.

Museo Gregoriano Etrusco

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

Museo Egiziano

Founded by Pope Gregory XVI, this museum houses a grand collection of Ancient Egyptian material. Such material includes papyruses, the Grassi Collection, animal mummies, and the famous Book of the Dead.

Works in the Vatican museums

Photo of a long wide corridor filled with a crowd of people in casual dress. The ceiling is arched and is elaborately decorated with gilt stucco and small brightly coloured pictures. The walls have frescoes of large maps, each of which has a brilliant blue background.
Gallery of Maps
On the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum is open to the public for free. This is extremely popular and it is common for people to wait in line for many hours. The others days of week you can use the online ticket office. This image is a panoramic view of one small stretch of the entire queue in April 2007, which continues for some distance in both directions beyond view.

References

External links

Coordinates: 41°54′23″N 12°27′16″E / 41.90639°N 12.45444°E / 41.90639; 12.45444


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