Visiting the Vatican Museums is an unmissable opportunity for tourists and pilgrims in Rome. This museum complex houses an immense selection of sacred artworks from ancient to modern times, collected by popes over the centuries in order to preserve them and make them accessible to believers and non-believers alike for contemplation. The crown jewel of this museum complex is hidden at the end of its 54 galleries: the Sistine Chapel, with the legendary Michelangelo's mural painting on the ceiling.
With over 4 million visitors per year, the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel are some of the most popular destinations in Europe. Thanks to special night openings (every Friday from 20 April to 26 October) it is now possible to explore them in a more intimate, relaxed, and evocative atmosphere.
The Vatican Museums are among the world's oldest public art galleries. Their gigantic artwork collection came together thanks to many popes' contributions throughout history, starting with the donation of several classical sculptures by Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484). His pieces constituted the original core of the museum, along with ancient marbles donated by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and exhibited in what has now become the Octagonal Courtyard, as well as other ancient Greek and Roman artworks revalued during the Renaissance.
After art history and archaeology were recognized as disciplines in the 18th century, the first museum in Vatican City was officially commissioned by Pope Clement XIV and Pope Pius VI – known as the Pio Clementino Museum from their names. Since that moment, the collection has grown incessantly to include pieces from every age, from ancient Egyptian artifacts to Van Gogh and Dalí's paintings.
Rooms and collections
During Vatican Museums night openings, visitors can enter the following exhibitions:
- Pio Clementino Museum
- Egyptian Museum
- Upper Galleries (candelabra, tapestries, and maps)
- Raphael Rooms
- Borgia Apartments (selection of some rooms)
- Modern Religious Art Collection
- Sistine Chapel
These rooms contain illustrious examples of Western art, such as the sculptural Laocoön Group in the ancient art section, “Transfiguration” by Raphael (1518), “St Jerome” by Leonardo da Vinci (1480), and “The Entombment of Christ” by Caravaggio (1603) in the Renaissance section, and the marble “Perseus with the Head of Medusa” by Canova (1801) in the modern art section.