Vatican City holds a special place in the hearts of art lovers, historians, and the Catholic faithful. Its incredible and well-preserved history is enough to make even the most jaded of travelers stop and take notice. Over the centuries, the Papacy and the state have painstakingly preserved the masterpieces created by ancient virtuosos to the delight of the connoisseurs of today. In this list, we will review the five most outstanding Vatican city museums and why they deserve the fame. Visit wantedinrome.com to learn more about these museums and other fun things to do and see in Vatican City. But before then, here is our list:
1. Sistine Chapel
Naturally, the Sistine Chapel tops this list due to its enormous contribution. This holds true from a religious and artistic perspective. Artistically speaking, it is home to some of Michelangelo’s most celebrated 16th Century Artworks. Most outstanding among them, is his painting of ‘The Last Judgment’ which majestically occupies the ceiling of the Chapel.
So remarkable are Michelangelo’s artistic works that they have been termed as one of the major artistic feats of human civilization! Aside from the fresco depicting the Last Judgment, a team if gifted 15th Century Renaissance painters created murals depicting ‘The Life of Moses’ and ‘the Life of Christ’ which continue to grace the walls of the Chapel to this very day.
On the spiritual side of things, the Chapel doubles up as the Papal’s official residence as well as the Papal Conclave. It is the venue where the College of Cardinals congregates for some of the most important Catholic ceremonies, such as the election of the Pope.
2. Stanze Di Raffaello
‘The Stanze’ as it is colloquially called, is a suite of rooms carrying a host of 16th Century paintings mainly done by a Renaissance artist known as Raffaello Sanzio Da Urbino.
As a museum, the suites’ walls detail the frescos that were started by Raffaello, which he continued to work on for twelve years before he passed on. Following his demise, the frescos were later completed by his team of apprentices.
The paintings were commissioned by Pope Julius II and are spread over the walls of a series of residential suites previously occupied by the late Pope. The largest suite is the Hall of Constantine or the ‘Sala Di Costantino’ whose frescoes were actually completed long after both Raffaello and the Pope had passed on.
For painting enthusiasts and lovers of fresco art, this museum is an earthly paradise.
3. Museo Leonardo Da Vinci
Arguably one of the greatest alchemists of all time, Leonardo Da Vinci was a force to be reckoned with. Da Vinci is hailed as the most ingenious mind of the Italian Renaissance and it is easy to see why. A polymath scholar, painter, sculptor, inventor, engineer, paleontologist and architect, Da Vinci had a hungry appetite for resolving life’s mysteries. His most famous artistic exploits include ‘The Mona Lisa’ and ‘The Last Supper’
At the Museo Da Vinci, more than 50 of his inventions are on display for all to see, as are the faithful reproductions of over 20 of his most iconic paintings. In addition, the museum allows you a glimpse into the artist’s remarkable life. The museum is strategically located right at the heart of Rome
4. Museo Pio- Clementino
Unlike most of the things to see in the Vatican, where you have to pay a nominal fee to be granted access, you can enjoy free access to the Museo Pio-Clementino provided you carry your Rome City pass.
The museum acts as an exhibition space for antique Greek and Roman sculptures and vibrant paintings.
As with most of the spaces in the Vatican, the museum incorporates interesting architecture, such as it’s signature (helically-shaped) stairs.
From as early as 9 am to as late as 6 pm, you can browse through the art displays to your heart’s content. Since the museum is located on the northern side of the Vatican, it is conveniently next to Vatican gardens which offer you a tranquil respite any time you wish to take a break from the museum tour.
Also, since the museum is adjacent to most train and bus stops, it is easy to schedule a tour of the museum even in the middle of your busy day. It is one of those items you can easily slot into your schedule without much disruption to your day.
5. Vatican Gallery of Maps
If you are an ancient Maps geek like I am, the Vatican Gallery of Maps is a must-visit. Located on the western side of the Vatican in the Belvedere courtyard, the gallery is a collection of topographical maps of Italy.
Said to be 80% accurate, these vintage maps were commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII and done by Ignazio Danti a geographer and catholic Bishop in the 16th Century. So detailed are the maps that they include perspectives of most major cities in Italy at the time.
These epic depictions also show areas covered by the seas, such as the Ligurian, Tyrrhenian, and the Adriatic Sea as well as the ancient Italian Seaports of Genoa, Venice, Ancona, and Civitavecchia over the centuries.
To Sum Up
As you plan your visit to any of the museums in the Vatican, it is important to book ahead and pay for your tickets in advance due to the massive crowds that visit the Vatican, particularly in the summer. Also bear in mind that all Vatican Museums are closed on Easter weekends and on 25th and 26th December (Christmas) and no tours are possible on the said days. A visit to this place and those museums will leave you imbued with history and wonder. So much so, that a repeat trip will be a constant temptation, and here you can find a guide for the best things you can do in the Vatican.