Discover The Vatican Museums | History, Highlights & More
Founded in the early 16th century, the Vatican Museums within the Vatican City display works that have been amassed by the Catholic church over the centuries. The museums contain roughly 70,000 works, of which 20,000 are on display. In 2020, even though the number of visitors dropped by 81 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it still ranked fourth in the list of most-visited art museums in the world.
What are the Vatican Museums?
- The Vatican Museums are a group of art and Christian museums situated within the walls of Vatican City.
- The Vatican Museums collections consist of over 70,000 paintings and sculptures, displayed prominently in over 54 galleries.
- You will find classical sculptures, tapestries, and paintings by Renaissance greats such as Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini, and da Vinci.
- They also have a collection of Modern Religious Art with works of artists like Carlo Carrà, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso.
Plan Your Visit to the Vatican Museums
In 2019, Vatican reported 6.9 million visitors. Plan your trip to enjoy a hassle-free experience.
Where are the Vatican Museums Located?
Address: 00120 Vatican City
The Vatican Museums are located within Vatican City, which is also home to the famous Vatican Gardens. Located in the direction of the Tiber River, just a stone's throw away from the Castel Sant'Angelo, the Vatican is one of the richest areas of Rome in terms of culture and history.
Nearest Metro Station: OttavianoGetting to Vatican Museums
Vatican Museums Opening Hours
Till 31 October 2021
Monday to Thursday
8.30 AM – 6.30 PM (final entry 4.30 PM)
Friday and Saturday
8.30 AM – 10.30 PM (final entry 8.30 PM)
From 2 November 2021
Monday to Saturday
8.30 AM – 6.30 PM (final entry 4.30 PM)
History of Vatican Museums In a Nutshell
- Pope Julius II purchased the sculpture 'Laocoon and His Sons' from a vineyard owner in the 16th century.
- Gregory XVI founded the Etruscan Museum in 1837 and the Egyptian Museum in 1839.
- Under Pius IX, the Pio Christian Museum was added.
- In 1910, under Saint Pius X, the Hebrew Lapidary was established.
- The Gregorian Profane Museum, Pio Christian Museum, and the Hebrew Lapidary were transferred from the Lateran Palace to their present building within the Vatican in 1970.
What's Inside the Vatican Museums
The spiral staircase at the Vatican Museums is inspired by Bramante’s iconic double-helix staircase at the Pio-Clementine Museum. Also known as Scala Elicoidale, the staircase was designed by Italian architect Giuseppe Momo in 1932. Like the original, the staircase consists of two separate flights that allow people to ascend and descend without running into each other. The main purpose of the design was to allow uninterrupted passage in each direction.
The Raphael Rooms
The Raphael Rooms are a group of rooms in the public portion of the Vatican Palace (part of the Vatican Museums) that are famous for their frescoes which were painted by Raphael, marking the High Renaissance in Rome. The rooms that make up Raphael Rooms are Sala di Costantino ("Hall of Constantine"), the Stanza di Eliodoro ("Room of Heliodorus"), the Stanza della Segnatura ("Room of the Signatura") and the Stanza dell'Incendio del Borgo ("The Room of the Fire in the Borgo").
Gregorian Etruscan Museum
Founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1836, it consists of 8 galleries dedicated to Etruscan antiques and artifacts excavated in prominent cities of ancient Etruria. Historical artifacts in this Museum include vases, bronzes, sarcophagus, and the famed collection of Guglielmi di Vulci Marquises. The Egyptian Museum, or the Egiziano Museum, is home to a large collection of artifacts from ancient Egypt such as papyruses, mummified animals, the Grassi Collection, and reproductions of the Book of the Dead.
The frescos reveal the contents of the Revelation and were executed by a team of painters made up of Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli between 1481 and 1482. In 1508, Julius II della Rovere entrusted Michelangelo with the job of partly altering the decoration. The ceiling, the upper part of the walls, the lunettes were painted to show the stories of Genesis, from the Creation to the Fall of man, to the Flood and the subsequent rebirth of mankind with the family of Noah.Know More
Gallery of Maps
The Gallery of maps is a 120 meter long gallery in the Vatican Museums that is covered with painted maps of Italy based on drawings by friar and geographer Ignazio Danti. It took Danti 3 years to complete the 40 panels that make up the Gallery of Maps. You will find a map of the entire Italian peninsula, each depicting a region. You will also see the work of Mannerist artists such as Cesare Nebbia also on the vaulted ceiling.
Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts
One of the 54 galleries in the Pio-Clementine Museum, the Gallery of Statues and Hall of Busts is home to numerous Greek and Roman sculptures. The gallery was originally covered with frescoes depicting landscapes and cities while the imagery of Cupids painted by Pinturicchio occupied the recesses in the wall. The gallery showcases work like the Sleeping Ariadne, the bust of Menander, and the Barberini Candelabra.
The Lapidary Gallery houses the richest lapidary collection in the Vatican. You will find this gallery along the southern part of the long corridor that links the Vatican Palace with the Belvedere Palace. The display was curated by Gaetano Marini, the first Custodian of the Apostolic Library from 1800. The Gallery constitutes a stone library, containing more than 3400 pages, written on slabs, bases, urns, altars, and sarcophagi, spread over 48 walls.
The Sala Rotunda
The Sala Rotunda was built in the 18th century. The Round Hall with a hemispherical vault imitates the Pantheon. The Sala Rotunda is lined with Colossal statues and busts that have been built on top of half-columns. The floor is decorated with intricate mosaic patterns from the 3rd century A.D. The highlight, of course, is the huge red basin made out of porphyry. It has a circumference of 13 meters.
Archaeological Areas of Vatican Museums
Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis
The word “necropolis” has been derived from the Greek necròs (dead) and pòlis (city), meaning, a “city of the dead”. Since Roman law forbade cremation and burial within the city for safety and hygiene reasons, cemeteries were located along the roads outside the urban area. One such necropolis was located along the stretch of the Via Triumphalis near the city. Archeological studies have found a large number of ancient tombs, collective and individual, that provide evidence of the practice of cremation and other pagan funerary practices.Know More
Excavations of St. John Lateran
Below St.John Lateran, a cathedral built in the 4th century in honor of St. John the Baptist and John the Evangelist, you will find remains of ancient buildings that existed before the basilica was constructed. The houses that existed in this region during the first imperial age were demolished in 193 AD when Septimius Severus decided to build the new barracks for the emperor’s bodyguards. In 312 AD, after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge, Constantine abolished the barracks and had the basilica built.
Vatican Villas & Gardens
The Gardens of Vatican City or Giardini Vaticani are private gardens and parks located within Rome's papal State. Spread over 57 acres, the area has a Renaissance layout and is filled with sculptures, fountains, monuments, botanicals and buildings dating as far back as the 6th Century. You can also spectacular view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica from the Vatican Gardens. The Vatican Gardens was made open to the public in 2014 by Pope Francis.Know More
A quaint village 12 miles from Rome, Castel Gandolfo sits on the Alban Hills overlooking Lake Albano. In this village, you will find the Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo, a 135-acre complex of buildings in a garden setting. You will find a 17th-century villa, an observatory, and a farmhouse, with the Papal Palace acting as a museum since 2016.Know More
Vatican Museums Tickets & Guided Tours
Vatican Museum Tickets
Access to the Vatican Museums requires one to purchase tickets. These tickets will allow you to skip the queue at the entrance and head straight to the security. Another feature of the Vatican Museums ticket is that it includes access to the famed Sistine Chapel situated within the Vatican Museums.
With an individual access ticket, you also get the option of going for an audio tour. These headsets are available in multiple languages and provide all the important information you need to learn more about the paintings and sculptures that adorn the Vatican Museums. Apart from individual access tickets, you can also go for guided tours of the Vatican Museums.Book Now
Vatican Museum Guided Tours
Taking a guided tour of the Vatican Museums can be really helpful if you want to experience more. In the company of an expert guide, you will receive priority access to the Vatican Museums. Once inside, your guide will take you through the Vatican Museums galleries and show you some of the most important and iconic works of art from the Renaissance and even a collection of modern art paintings.
Guided tours of historical monuments are an extremely fruitful way to go about discovering them. The expert guide will tell you not just the who and why behind each painting, but also the historical and cultural context that gave birth to these works of art. However, the downside is the fixed routine and route decided usually at the discretion of the guide.Book Now
All Your Questions About Vatican Museums Answered
A. The Vatican Museums are the public museums of the Vatican City. Founded in the 16th century, the Vatican Museums display works that had been amassed by the Catholic Church and the Papacy, making it the museum that is home to some of the most important Renaissance masterpieces and Roman sculptures.
A. Yes, you need to purchase tickets to enjoy access to the Vatican Museums. You can buy Vatian Museum tickets here.
A. The Vatican Museums is located within the Vatican City, which is situated on the west bank of the Tiber River.
A. The Vatican Museums is home to one of the most largest art collections in the world, from across centuries and the world, from Egypt to Greece to Rome, from early Christian and medieval art to the Renaissance to contemporary art.
A. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the early 16th century. Subsequent Popes added to the collection.
A. Set aside a minimum of 3 hours to tour the Vatican Museums.
A. There is a lot to see at the Vatican Museum. Raphael's masterpiece Transfiguration, the Pinecone Courtyard, the famous Laocoön sculpture, The Rotunda Room, The Tapestries Hall, The Maps Room and The Sistine Chapel are some of the must-visit attractions within the Vatican Museums.
Yes, guided tours are available for the Vatican Museums. Taking a guided tour of the Vatican Museums can be really helpful if you want to learn more about what you see at the museums.
A. It is your choice how you wish to experience the Vatican Museums. The Vatican Museum tickets includes access to the Sistine Chapel. You can choose to spend all your time here, or wander through the rest of the museums once you are done.
A. Yes, the Vatican Museums offer you a little sneak peak into the history and culture of Rome, as well as the world of Christianity and art. Art buffs, history buffs and travel enthusiasts will all enjoy a visit to the Vatican Museums.
A. Yes, the Vatican Museums are accessible on wheelchair. They are equipped with ramps, elevators and wheelchair lifts.