A bit of history about the Vatican Museums
Pope Nicholas V began in 1447 the construction of the Vatican, founded the Vatican Library and commissioned the architect Bernardo Rossellino the design of the new St. Peter’s Basilica and the painter Fra Angelico the decoration of the Niccoline chapel. In 1471, Sixtus IV commissioned the construction of a new chapel, the Sistine Chapel, with the pictorial decoration from artists like Sandro Botticelli and Pietro Perugino, that later on in 1508 Michelangelo Buonarroti repainted by orders of Julius II.
The Vatican museums were born with the private works of Julius II that once elected pope in 1503 moved his collection to the Octagonal Court. Among the works we have the Apollo Belvedere, the Venus Felix, the Sleeping Ariadne and the Laocoon group. New buildings were constructed with galleries and passageways to connect them to the existing ones. Julius II commissioned the decoration of Raphael’s room and the Helical Ramp designed by Donato Bramante as access to the upper floors from the garden of Belvedere.
In 1740, Benedict XIX reorganized the halls of the Sacred and Profane museums and the Cabinet of Masks. In 1756, the illustrations and the archaeological discoveries of Johann Joachim Winckelmann gave a boost to the public exposition of the Vatican’s collections. Popes Clement XIV and Pius VI designed the Pio Clementino Museum and Pio VII commissioned Antonio Canova to organize the museum that bears his name. Gregory XVI, in 1837, inaugurated the Gregorian Etruscan Museum and two years later founded the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. In the Palace of Lateran, the Profane Gregorian Museum was founded in 1844 and from 1870 the exhibition of the works in the Catholic Church was reorganized. Pius XI later founded the Missionary-Ethnological Museum and inaugurated the art gallery (Pinacoteca) exhibiting pictures taken by Napoleon and restored following the Congress of Vienna in 1815.
Decades later in 1970, the old Lateranensis collection was transfer to the Vatican, the museums Gregorian Profane and Pio Cristiano and in 1973 the Missionary-Ethnological Museum. The collection of Modern Religious Art and the Carriage Pavilion were founded in 1973 during the pontificate of Paul VI. Between 1989 and 2000 the Gregorian Egyptian and Gregorian Etruscan museums were reorganized and the Historical Museum was created.
The Vatican Museums are closed on Sunday, except for the last Sunday of the month (no guided tours are available on this day).
Other closure days:
January 1, 6
August 15, 16
December 8, 25, 26
Viale Vaticano, Roma.
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