1. Beginning of the Vatican Museums
The onset of the Vatican Museums takes us back to the early 16th century. It began when Pope Julius II purchased the first sculpture made in marble. It was titled ‘Laocoon and His Sons’. The sculpture was bought from a nearby vineyard and was put on display a month later. Another statue was brought from a little harbour city located towards the south of Rome, Anzio. It was sculpted by Leochares, a Greek sculptor and called ‘Apollo del Belvedere’. These statues were then placed in the Octagonal Courtyard that is known as the Courtyard of Statues.
2. The Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is located inside the Vatican Palace as a part of the Vatican Museums. It has the world’s richest depositories of manuscripts. The library has over 1.6 million printed books, 75000 manuscripts and 8600 incunabula featuring the largest archive of Latin, Greek and Hebrew texts. The oldest manuscript dates to the first century. It is indeed a heaven for book lovers. The library association is also attempting to digitize and make the collection available to a broader audience.
3. The never-ending art collection
The Vatican Museums consist of a large and impressive art collection. It spreads over 1400 rooms, chapels and galleries. The collection of art is the world’s largest with pieces spread over 9 miles. They could wrap four and a half times around the Vatican walls. The works include the most important pieces of Renaissance art in the world which were built throughout centuries. Today, a large section is dedicated to the Collection of Contemporary Art.
4. The Sistine Chapel
It is located in the Apolistic Palace, Pope’s residence. It is one of the most famous places in the Vatican Museums as the Papal Conclave is conducted over there. It is graced with frescoes done by Michelangelo including the well-known piece of art, ‘The Last Judgement’. Michelangelo who wasn’t a painter but a sculptor was not as keen to do the work. The Pope was still adamant that he would do this job. The frescoes took nearly six years to finish.
5. The Raphael Rooms
The Raphael rooms are a set of four rooms each with a unique theme, painted using the fresco technique by Raphael and his students. Raphael was a famous Renaissance painter. The work started in 1508 and continued until Raphael died in 1520. Further carrying on, his scholars finished it in 1524. The rooms were Pope Julius II’s private apartments and served as reception rooms in the Vatican Palace. They are now open to the public and are one of the highlights of the Vatican Museums.
6. Bramante Staircase
There are two Bramante Staircases in the Pio Clementino Museum. One dates back to 1505 and the other one from 1932. Neither of them is a staircase but a pair of spiral ramps. The former one is designed by Donato Bramante as an innovative helical staircase that has Doric columns as supports. The new staircase was designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932 as a homage to the original. In both of them, the centre is open that allows views from the bottom to the top. The Bramante Staircase overall is one of the most photographed spots in the Vatican Museums.
7. Gallery of Maps
The Gallery of Maps is one of the most impressive galleries which consists of 40 frescoes of maps outlining the Italian region. These were created by Ignazio Danti in the late 16th century. It took three years to complete the 120 meters long gallery. The maps show the Italian peninsula in its entirety. They are both magnificent and intricate in detail that depicts the way the renaissance Italians saw their surroundings and themselves. This gallery is passed on the way to reach the Sistine Chapel.
8. Under the Vatican Museums
The Vatican museums have an exquisite collection of art from the early 16th century. It requires restoration works that need to be carried out to keep this collection in shape. There are three restoration laboratories which sit underneath the Vatican’s museums and galleries. They are for restoration of marble, tapestries and paintings. The tapestries are rehabilitated in a white room. Also, a two-story bunker, both of which are situated underground. The bunker houses secret archives of over 50 miles of shelves.
9. The Egyptian Museum
The Vatican Museums are often linked with a collection from the Greek and Roman period, but they also house Egyptian antiquities. The museum was designed by Giuseppe De Fabris in the 19th-century retro-Egyptian style. It is composed of nine rooms which contain artefacts from Egypt during the Roman period. The collection includes painted mummy cases, statues of pharaohs, queens and various sculptures, inscriptions and reliefs. Besides, relics from ancient Mesopotamia and Syria-Palestine are also present there.
10. Sphere within a sphere sculpture
Sphere within a sphere is the work of a modern artist, Arnaldo Pomodoro. It is displayed in an outdoor setting inside the Pine Cone Courtyard within the Vatican Museums. The bronze sculpture is a striking piece which depicts the inner sphere as Earth and the outer one as Christianity. These spheres have multiple fractures which symbolize the cracks in our world today. It is large in size and measures 4 meters in diameter. The sculpture is a part of a series by the artist that is found in other parts of the world too.