About Vatican Museums

About Vatican Museums

Also known as the Museum of Museums, the Vatican Museums are situated in the heart of the Vatican City. This 1,62,000 square metres of historically significant and visually magnificent museum complex consists of over 54 galleries. This makes it a world-famous destination for visitors of all ages. 

The private rooms of residence and prayer rooms of the previous Popes, like the Borgia Apartment and the Niccoline Chapel, are also a part of the museum collection. Several other rooms inside the Vatican Palace hold valuable artefacts and architectural designs. Apart from this there are many monuments like the Sistine Chapel and the Chapel of Beato Angelico that make the Vatican Museums a remarkable place to visit. The museum collection includes archaeological, ethnological and artistic pieces as well.

The collections inside the Vatican Museums are accumulated by the chain of the Holy See over the last 500 years. Therefore, all these collectables belong to the Catholic Church. The Vatican City itself has been listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, and its museums are rated to be some of the most important ones in the world. 

For a person who is interested in European history and how it has had an effect on the political, cultural, artistic and religious scenario of the world, the Vatican Museums are a must-visit.

History of Vatican Museums

The cornerstone of the historic Vatican was set back in the mid-15th century by Pope Nicholas V. Later in the 16th century, Pope Julius II collected the first piece of sculpture named ‘Laocoon and His Sons’, marking the birth of the Vatican City Museums. The walls of these museums guard over 70,000 artworks, sculptures, excavations and artefacts, out of which only 20,000 are on display.

These art pieces and artefacts have been accumulated by the Supreme Pontiffs appointed through the ages. This 500-year-old place, as we see it now, is created by the contribution of some timeless artists such as Michelangelo, Raphael, Roselli, Dali, Picasso and Van Gogh.

Attractions Inside The Vatican Museums

Bramante Staircase

The very famous Bramante Staircase of the Vatican Palace was originally made by Donato Bramante in the 16th Century on the orders of Pope Julius II. It is commonly known as the Spiral Staircase and it resembles a double-helix structure with two separate staircases. It was made for an easy ascend and descend for people, without them running into each other. In 1932, this staircase was reconstructed by Guiseppe Momo on the original model in a more contemporary style.

The Raphael Rooms

The Stanze of Raphael room consists of four rooms that make up a part of the apartment where Julius II resided. This apartment is located on the second floor of the Pontifical Palace and was used by his successors as well. You can stare in wonder at the frescoes painted on the walls by Raphael back in the early 16th century. These paintings marked the period of the High Renaissance in Europe, and you can note the detailed brush strokes and figurine study that justifies Raphael’s genius.

Gregorian Etruscan Museum

The Gregorian Etruscan Museum is one of the most interesting places to visit in the Vatican City. Gain insights into some of the oldest civilisations of the world that can broaden your knowledge base. This museum was founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836. There are 8 galleries that showcase of Etruscan excavations such as bronze vases, sarcophagi, and other findings from the ancient Kingdom of Etruria. The Egyptian Museum lies here along with the reproductions of The Book of The Dead, papers made of papyrus, and mummified animals as well. 

Sistine Chapel

The making of the Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV back in the 15th century. This chapel is quite popular for its history and for bearing some of the best artworks ever made. Its ceilings are coloured with frescoes and massive paintings themed around the contents of Revelation, and the room is adorned by some fantastic Renaissance marble sculptures. This is home to the very controversial painting of The Last Judgement and the Stories of Genesis by Michelangelo. Both the entrances of North and South showcase more paintings created by Rosselli, Botticelli and their team. 

Gallery of Maps

Pope Gregory XIII founded this hall of Gallery of maps in the 16th century and commissioned the famous geographer Ignazio Danti to take up the project. This is a 120-metre long hall that is panelled with painted geographical maps of Italy. There are almost 40 such panels depicting a close view of various regions of Italy. You can go to the third floor of the Belvedere Courtyard to observe these intricate frescoes. The vaulted ceilings of the hall depict the Siege of Malta and the Battle of Lepanto, which are the only two events that are painted in the hall. 

Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts

This is one of the most-visited halls amongst the 54 galleries of the Pio-Clementine Museum. It is occupied by numerous Roman and Greek sculptures of significant personalities. The Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts is home to stunning frescoes depicting landscapes and cityscapes. You can also find several paintings of Cupids made by Pinturicchio that adorn the recesses on the walls. This gallery showcases the interaction between the two empires and the influence they had on each other. It also houses the famous figurine sculpture of ‘Sleeping Ariadne’ which is a good example to study the Greco-Roman intersection.

Lapidary Gallery

Visit the largest lapidary gallery in the entire Vatican City which is situated on the southern end of the connecting hall between the Vatican Palace and the Belvedere Palace. This gallery consists of more than 3400 pages made of slabs, urns, altars and sarcophagi. Curated by Gaetano Marini, the foremost custodian of the Apostolic Library, this place is one of the best stone libraries in the world. You can roam around the place gazing at the stone engravings that take you on a historical tour around the world.

Round Hall

Built in the 18th century, the Round Hall is also known as the Sala Rotunda. It is a hemispherical vault that is lined with fascinating colossal sculptures and busts built on half-columns. The floors of the hall are set with mosaics from the 3rd century AD that were found in Otricoli and at Sacrofano. In the middle of the hall, there is a 13 metres wide red basin made of porphyry which steals the attention of all eyes.

Archaeological Areas of Vatican Museums

Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis

This literally translates to the ‘City of the Dead of the Via Triumphalis’. It was a pagan funerary practice to cremate the body outside the city boundaries, so they built cremation grounds on the outskirts. This is one such stretch of the necropolis that has been founded by archaeologists near Vatican City and is now an integral part of the Vatican Museums.

Also Visit: Vatican Necropolis

Excavations of St. John Lateran

Below the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran lies the ancient ruins of buildings and houses that were built before the 5th century. Historically, this excavation site is a treasure to know about the Pagan past, and currently, it is accessible for tourists to visit the site and pass through it. 

Must Visit: Villa Barberini

Vatican Villas & Gardens

Vatican Gardens

The Vatican Gardens are a private complex of parks that are located within Rome’s Papal State. It is also known as the Giardini Vaticani and spans over an area of 57 acres, occupying most of the Vatican Hill. This garden is home to sculptures, buildings and fountains, some of which date back to the 6th century AD. Most of the fortifications and monuments stationed at this garden resemble Renaissance and Baroque styles of art and architecture. This place has been open to public visitors since 2014 and the view of the St.Peter’s Basilica is truly amazing from here.

Castel Gandolfo

The Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo is the summer Papal Palace. It is located in the Alban Hills, overlooking Lake Albano. This 135-acre complex is laden with multiple monuments and sculptures. There is a 17th century Villa, an observatory and a farmhouse situated within the complex as well. This area falls in Italian territory but is owned by the Holy See. Around 20 rooms are open to the public for touring, in order to give a hint of the Papal lifestyle over the last 500 years. The Pope’s private garden is situated here and is named as the Gardens of Villa Barberini. 

Plan your visit to Vatican Museums

How to Reach
Dress code
  • Opening times- The time to visit the Vatican Museums from Monday to Saturday is from 9 AM to 6 PM. The place is open on the last Sunday of every month from 9 AM to 2 PM. If you are visiting with the tour operators, you can enter by 8 AM, an hour before the regular time. You can also check the calendar of the Vatican Museums to know about the dates on which the visiting hours are extended till 10:30 PM.

  • Closing times- The closing time for the museum from Monday to Saturday is 6 PM. The last time of admission to this place is generally two hours before the closing time. There are specific dates on which the museum remains closed entirely, so it is advisable to check the schedule before planning your visit.  

1. By train- The nearest train station to this destination is St. Pietro. It takes around 40 minutes to reach here from Roma Termini, the first station of the train route.

2. By tram- The nearest tram station is Piazza del Risorgimento, and it takes around an hour to reach this destination from Gerani. From there it is just a 10-minute walk.

3. By metro- Ottaviano and Cipro are the two nearest stations to the Vatican Museum complex and they fall upon the Orange line of metro routes. It takes 5 minutes on foot to reach the gates from both these stations.

4. By bus- It takes around 20 minutes to reach the destination via bus, although that depends on your point of departure. V.Le Vaticano/Musei Vaticani is the nearest bus stop from which it is a 15-minute walk to the entrance gates of Vatican Museums.

  • You need to follow the Vatican dress code in order to gain access to the Vatican City Museum. Avoid wearing clothes that reveal your shoulders and knees.
  • Keep a light scarf to protect yourself from the heat as the temperature gets really high during the summer season.
  • Hats and metal bearings are not allowed inside the premises

Vatican Museums FAQs

What's inside the Vatican Museum?

There is a treasury of thousands of artworks, sculptures, archeological findings and ethnological excavations guarded within the walls of the Vatican Museum. Some of them date back hundreds and thousands of years as well, including the Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis and the Excavations of St. John Lateran.

How much time do you need at the Vatican museum?

It will take around five hours minimum, so go about this place. The Vatican Museum is a huge complex of galleries and halls with over 20,000 artifacts on display. You can spend days exploring the corridors of this iconic destination.

Is there a dress code for the Vatican?

Yes, there is a dress code to enter this renowned museum of Vatican City. The shoulders need to be covered, and you cannot wear shorts or short dresses either. Hats are not allowed as well, so keep a light scarf handy.

Also Checkout: Best Time to Visit Vatican Museums

How many Vatican Museums are there?

There is only one Vatican Museum which has around 54 galleries. Out of these only around 20 are open to visitors. There are over 70,000 artefacts contained in the complex, but only 20,000 are on display, this includes the rooms and apartments of the previous Popes as well.

What is the best time to visit the Sistine Chapel?

The best time to visit the Sistine Chapel is during the regular visiting hours of the Vatican Museum. This place is open to tourists from 9 AM till 6 PM from Monday to Saturday. The place opens on the last Sunday of every month from 9 AM to 2 AM and the last time of admission is two hours before the closing time.


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