Great Museums of the World – Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are amongst the world’s most visited museums, and also amongst the oldest, having first opened over 500 years ago.

Obviously, they are located at The Vatican in Rome, and these museums contain some of the world’s best examples of statuaries and artworks, including the world’s most famous fresco, Michelangelo’s The Creation of Adam and The Last Judgement, which is painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

There are a great number of museums within the complex which include The Pinacoteca Art Gallery, the Collection of Modern Religious Art, several sculpture museums, The Gallery of Tapestries, The Gallery of Maps, and museums which catalogue human history from as far back as the Stone Age.

The Pinacoteca Art Gallery contains the works of the very best of the Renaissance painters, and includes some of the best works of Giotti, Raphael, Caravaggio, Perugino and Leonardo da Vinci.

This collection has continued to grow over the years through donations and purchases until it reached the current nucleus of 460 paintings which are distributed among the eighteen rooms on the basis of chronology and school, from the so-called Primitives (12th-13th century) to the 19th century.

The Collection of Modern Religious Art occupies 55 rooms and is also unbelievably superb including within its collection works by such esteemed artists as Rodin, Van Gogh, Gauguin, Chagall, Klee, Dali and Picasso.

Ancient artefacts are represented in the Gregorian Egyptian Museum which houses monuments and artefacts of ancient Egypt partly coming from Rome and from Villa Adriana (Tivoli), where they had been transferred mostly in the Imperial age, and partly from private collections, that was purchased by nineteenth century collectors.  The Gregorian Etruscan Museum contains material from between the 9th and the 1st century BC, from the Iron Age until the progressive and definitive converging of the Etruscan cities into the structure of the Roman state.    

As the Vatican has, for centuries, sent out missionaries to all parts of the world to proselytize Catholic beliefs, it should come as no surprise that those missionaries sent back to the Vatican relics and artefacts from their far off missions.  The Missionary Ethnological Museum now contains over 100,000 works from all over the world, including much primitive art and ornaments from some of the world’s remotest places.

The collections in the Vatican Museums are so vast that it would take many visits just to cover the many halls, palaces and rooms in which the collections are held.  In fact, the collections are still expanding and a new exhibition, called the Way of the Sea which contains models of maritime vessels gathered from across the world, has recently opened in a new section.

If you do wish to visit the Vatican Museums you do need to pay, but the good news is that on the last Sunday of each month, the Vatican Museum is open to the public for free – but the queue then is a lot longer than usual.

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