Vatican Museums You Must Visit
Technically speaking, all the museums in Vatican City are part of one big institution known as The Vatican Museums or Musei Vaticani. Most galleries and museums exhibit Christian artifacts or art and history pieces connected to the area or to artists whose work appears somewhere in the Vatican. The total collection exceeds 70,000 works and is split among 54 buildings and galleries that include famous stops such as the Sistine Chapel.
Since touring 50+ plus museums might be a bit much, here are the top picks you shouldn’t miss when you visit the Vatican.
1/ Pinacoteca Vaticana
The Pinacoteca is an 18-room building exhibiting works that were originally contained in the Borgia apartments. The Pinacoteca was completed in 1931, and now houses collections from painters as far back as the 12th century. Giotto, Italy’s greatest painter from the Middle Ages, is also featured here. The collection extends all the way to the 18th century and includes everything from a tapestry of the Last Supper and Leonardo da Vinci's St. Jerome in the Wilderness to paintings by Raphael and clay models of Gian Lorenzo Bernini statues.
2/ Museo Pio-Clementino
Named after two Popes (founder Clement XIV and Pius VI, who completed the collection), this impressive museum has one of the largest European collections of Greek and Roman sculpture. The museum is divided into many galleries, each featuring a specific theme. Most impressive are the Sala Rotonda, featuring ancient mosaics and a gilded bronze statue of Hercules, and Sala delle Muse, which focuses on the nine muses and the Belvedere Torso, a marble fragment of a nude male dating back to 1430s Rome.
Other impressive pieces include the sarcophagus of Saint Helen, mother of Constantine the Great, the statue of Sleeping Ariadne, statues of the Three Graces, and many ancient statues of animals.
3/ Museo Gregoriano Egiziano
One of the oldest museums in the complex (it dates back to 1839), this is the place to visit to see Ancient Egyptian artifacts, including papyruses, mummies, and reproductions of the Book of the Dead. Although originally created as a way to understanding the history of the Old Testament, the museum now houses a significant number of unique historical artifacts.
4/ Museo Chiaramonti
Another museum founded in the early 19th century, Museo Charamonti is home to a significant collection of stone tablets, sarcophagi, and statues, including Augustus of Prima Porta (the two-meter high marble statue of Augustus Caesar) and the muscle-built standing warrior Doryphoros.
5/ Vatican Historical Museum
Housed in the Apostolic Palace of the Lateran since 1991, this museum’s collection is dedicated to chronicling the history of the papacy. In addition to portraits of all Popes since the 16th century, the museum also houses religious ritual items used by popes, as well as a large display of the motorcars and carriages used by Popes to travel around (affectionately known as Popemobiles).
Still eager for more after visiting these museums? Other Vatican Museums worth a visit include the Collection of Modern Religious Art gallery (which features paintings and sculptures from van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Dalí, and Picasso) and the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, with an impressive collection of Etruscan pieces.
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