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10 masterpieces of Vatican Museums you must see

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Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums, located in Vatican City, are a special place filled with valuable art and history from different times and places. They have things like Michelangelo’s famous paintings in the Sistine Chapel and ancient objects from Egypt. These museums show how people have been creative and express their beliefs throughout history, giving us a chance to learn and appreciate our shared human story.

Highly recommend to book tickets or guided tour in advance due to high demand.

The Bramante Staircase

The Bramante Staircase, also known as the “Bramante Ladder,” is a remarkable architectural feature within the Vatican Museums. Designed by Donato Bramante in the 16th century, it’s a double helix staircase where two ramps wind around each other, allowing simultaneous ascent and descent. Originally intended for the Pope’s private use, this Renaissance masterpiece combines functionality and aesthetics. While the original staircase is not open to the public, a similar double helix staircase offers visitors a glimpse of this ingenious design, adding to the allure of the Vatican Museums’ architectural treasures.

Note: If you are going down stairs, you automatically go out to the exit and couldn’t return back.

The Pinacoteca of Vatican

The Pinacoteca is a captivating art gallery featuring an exquisite collection of paintings from the Renaissance to the Baroque period. Displaying works by renowned artists such as Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio, and Titian, the Pinacoteca offers a chronological journey through the evolution of Western art. I really loved the work of Caravaggio “The Entombment of Christ”, because of his dramatic use of light and shadow. It expresses the emotions of the painting and the mood. Also pay attention to “Transfiguration” by Rafael, this is considered as a masterpiece of High Renaissance art. Also it is his final work. The painting was ordered by Cardinal Julio Medici, but Rafael didn’t finish his work because of his sudden death.

Courtyard of Pinecone

The Vatican Museums’ Courtyard of the Pinecone is a peaceful area where art and history come together. There’s a huge ancient bronze statue shaped like a pinecone in the area near the Belvedere palace. The pine is 4 meter high, it was created in the 1st century BC. Two peacocks located on both sides of the pine. Also you can find in the middle of the courtyard sculpture of “Sphere within a Sphere”. It was created by  Italian artist Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1926. Sphere is one of the most photographed pieces of Vatican Museums. This artwork symbolizes the emergence of a new world from the old.

Museum of Pio Clementino

The Museum of Pio Clementino is a captivating repository of classical art and sculpture. Named after Pope Clement XIV, it houses a remarkable collection of ancient Greek and Roman masterpieces. Don’t miss the iconic sculptures such as the “Laocoön and His Sons” and the “Apollo Belvedere,” which show us  the beauty, grace, and technical mastery of classical art. Do you know what I mostly like in the sculpture sections? To sketch them! This is a kind of workshop for artists from the great masters.

The Rotunda Room

The Rotunda Room within the Vatican Museums is an architectural marvel that houses an awe-inspiring collection of ancient sculptures. At its center lies the impressive Porphyry Basin, a massive red porphyry stone bowl that once decorated the Roman Baths of Caracalla. Encircled by a wonderful arrangement of statues, including the celebrated “Torsion Player,” this space offers a harmonious blend of art and history. The Porphyry Basin’s rich history and the sculptures’ complex detailing make the Rotunda Room a captivating testament to the legacy of Roman craftsmanship and culture. Don’t forget to look up to see the amazing cupola and down to the roman mosaic floor.

The Gallery of Tapestries

The Gallery of Tapestries at the Vatican Museums is a special place with beautiful woven artworks. The tapestries on the right side of the wall were made in the 17th century in Rome for the Pope Urban VIII. They show us scenes from his life. They are amazing, but not comparable to those on the left side. The tapestries on the left side were made in Brussels in the 16th century. They were made by the drawings of Raphael’s students and show us scenes from Jesus’ life. Pay attention to the tapestry “Resurrection of Jesus”, how interesting it is woven, the emotions of the characters were shown and the shadows made. Interesting fact is that no matter what, Jesus will follow you with his eyes when you pass away the tapestry. Don’t forget to look up. It seems like the ceiling is decorated with gypsum low reliefs. But it is painted! Surprising, isn’t it?

The Gallery of Geographic Maps

First of all, look up, because the ceiling is a masterpiece. The Gallery of geographic maps has the biggest collection of geographic paintings that has ever been created. The maps show us Italy and Italian provinces, which were ordered by Pope Gregory XIII in the 16th century. Maps were based on the drawings of Dominican monk Ignazio Danti. Despite the drawings being made during the 16th century, they are perfectly accurate. Don’t miss this gallery of the Vatican, because these maps are really pieces of art.

Borgia Apartments

The Borgia Apartments in the Vatican Museums are a historical treasure, named after the notorious Borgia family. These apartments contain a series of rooms adorned with frescoes depicting scenes from the life of Pope Alexander VI, who was a Borgia. The complex artwork, painted by Pinturicchio and his workshop, showcases vibrant colors, interesting details, and vivid storytelling.

Raphael Rooms

The Raphael Rooms are a collection of four interconnected chambers adorned with stunning frescoes painted by the renowned artist Raphael and his workshop. These rooms, including the famous “School of Athens,” are a testament to Raphael’s mastery of composition, perspective, and symbolic storytelling. The “School of Athens” is a monumental fresco that symbolizes the pursuit of knowledge and wisdom during the Renaissance. This vibrant composition portrays a gathering of philosophers, scholars, and thinkers from different periods and disciplines, engaging in lively discussions and intellectual exchange. School of Athens is a highlight of Raphael rooms that you definitely should see.

Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel, an iconic masterpiece of art and spirituality, known for Michelangelo’s breathtaking ceiling frescoes. Which depict scenes from the Book of Genesis and other biblical narratives, the chapel stands as a pinnacle of Renaissance artistry. The vividly painted figures, complex details, and emotional compositions captivate you. The iconic image of God’s touch to Adam becoming a symbol of human creation. Additionally, Michelangelo’s monumental “Last Judgment” on the chapel’s altar wall portrays the final judgment of souls, conveying intense emotion and dramatic storytelling. Beyond its artistic significance, the Sistine Chapel serves as a sacred space for papal events and conclaves, embodying the convergence of art, faith, and history within its awe-inspiring walls.

These masterpieces only scratch the surface of the incredible artworks and historical artifacts housed within the Vatican Museums. Each piece reflects the evolution of art, culture, and spirituality throughout different periods of history, making a visit to the Vatican Museums a truly enriching experience.

If you want to explore more attractions in Rome, you welcome to read my post where I mention must visit places.

Sonder San Lorenzo
Rome Plaza Suites
Sonder Piazza di Spagna

Recommended hotels in Rome

Sonder San Lorenzo
Rome Plaza Suites
Sonder Piazza di Spagna
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