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  The Vatican Museums



The Vatican has been the residence of the popes only after 1377. Since then 265 men have sat on St. Peter throne and contributed to make this place the center of the Catholic Church. Vatican City has been and independent state since 1929.

In roman times, Vatican hill was considered outside the city and inhospitable. Agrippina, the grandmother of Nero, transformed it into a flourishing garden.

In 67 AD the Apostle Peter was crucified and buried here, an event that marked this spot for eternity. Two hundred years later the Emperor Constantine built a grandiose basilica on the spot considered the tomb of St. Peter. The church was built in the style of a Roman pagan basilica, although with some architectural innovations such as the intersection of five naves by a transept.

Many years later in 1506, Bramante was entrusted with the construction of the new San Pietro basilica, the renovation of the facade of the Apostolic Palace, completed by Raphael in 1519, and the construction of the massive wall and the three raised terraces between the Palace and Belvedere.
In 1546 Michelangelo Buonarroti started planning the complex of the three apses and the dome. At the time of his death in 1564 the left apse and the drum, which would be vaulted under Sixtus V in 1585, were completed. To Sixtus V we owe the positioning of the obelisk in front of the basilica in line with the high altar (1586). In 1612 the facade of the church was erected and Pope Paul V Borghese could finally declare the conclusion of the whole project.
Bernini completed the sumptuous decoration of the basilica (the Baldacchino of the High Altar and Saint Peter's Chair) and the brilliant, grandiose arrangement of Piazza di San Pietro with the magnificent colonnade (1656-66).

The founding of the Vatican Museums can be traced back to 1503 when the newly-elected Pope, Julius II della Rovere, placed a statue of Apollo in the internal courtyard of the Belvedere Palace built by Innocent VIII; he brought the statue from the garden of his titular church of St. Peter in Chains. In 1506 the Laocoon was added to the collection, after its discovery on the Esquiline Hill before the eyes of Giuliano di Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Scores of artifacts were added throughout the next two centuries and the collections were eventually reorganized under Benedict XIV (1740-1758) and Clement XIII (1758-1769). They founded the Apostolic Library Museums: the Sacred (Museo Sacro - 1756) and the Profane (Museo Profano - 1767).
The Christian Museum, comprising finds from the catacombs that could not be conserved in situ, was founded by Pius IX in 1854 in the Lateran Palace and was moved to the Vatican Museums by Pope John XXIII.
Pope Pius XI inaugurated in 1932 the definitive seat of the Vatican Picture Gallery (the Pinacoteca), near the monumental entrance of the Vatican Museums. 

Built between 1475 and 1483, in the time of Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere, the Sistine Chapel has originally served as Palatine Chapel. The chapel is rectangular in shape and measures 40.93 meters long by 13.41 meters wide, i.e. the exact dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament. It is 20.70 meters high and is roofed by a flattened barrel vault, with little side vaults over the centered windows.
The architectural plans were made by Baccio Pontelli and the construction work was supervised by Giovannino de' Dolci. The first Mass in the Sistine Chapel was celebrated on August 9, 1483.
The wall paintings were executed by Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and their respective workshops, which included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and Bartolomeo della Gatta.
Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II della Rovere in 1508 to repaint the ceiling; the work was completed between 1508 and 1512. He painted the Last Judgment over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, being commissioned by Pope Paul III Farnese. 


From April 1 to October 31: 8.45-16.45
From November 1 to March 31: 8.45-13.45
Closed all Sundays and holidays, except for the last Sunday of the month when the Museums are open with free admission.  

For additional information on the Vatican or to make a reservation for tickets and private tours please contact our concierge: Valentina