CategoryArchaeology, Fine Arts, Modern & Contemporary Art
Good To KnowOpen also Mondays
TipBook your ticket online to avoid the queues, which can be very long especially during the summer and weekends.
The Vatican Museums in Rome is one of the largest and richest museums in the world, offering the visitor everything from Egyptian artefacts to Renaissance masterpieces and from Etruscan relics to modern art, with the Sistine Chapel as the absolute highlight.
As the name suggests, the Vatican Museums is a collection of individual museums that are connected. Together they are the only part of the Vatican Palace that is open to the public.
The origins of the museum go back to 1506 when Pope Julius II started the collection with a group of sculptures. Later popes added to this collection, resulting in today’s five museums and two art galleries.
Highlights are the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms. The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it was built between 1473 and 1481. It serves as the private chapel of the pope and is the site where the Cardinals elect the new pontiff. Michelangelo’s paintings on the ceiling, together with his The Last Judgement on the altar wall, are considered to be among the greatest masterpieces of Western art.
The Raphael Rooms are four sequential rooms in the papal apartments, decorated with frescoes by Raphael. The decorations were ordered by Pope Julius II in 1508 and finished in 1531 by Raphael’s assistants who continued the work after his death in 1520.
The art galleries of the Vatican Museums are the Collection of Modern Religious Art and the Pinacoteca Vaticana. The latter displays Renaissance masterpieces by artists like Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, Giotto and Bernini. The presence of modern art in the Vatican Museums might be a surprise but is not to be overlooked. The collection includes more than 800 paintings by artists like Van Gogh, Matisse, Dali, Bacon, Kandinsky, Chagall and Klee.
Among the museums are Museo Pio-Clementino, with Greek and Roman sculptures, and the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, with Etruscan pieces like vases, sarcophagus and bronzes. The Museo Egizio holds Egyptian artefacts dating back almost 7000 years, including a partial reconstruction of an ancient villa outside Tivoli.
At the end of the museum visit, there is the impressive double helix staircase designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932. The two staircases separate the ascending and descending traffic. Its design is inspired by the staircase in the Museo Pio-Clementino, built in 1505 by Bramante.