The Vatican Museums are some of the most popular in the world attracting millions of visitors each year. The museums were founded in the early 16th century by Pope Julius II after a group of sculptures were collected by the Pope and placed in what today is the Cortile Ottagono.
The popes were among the first sovereigns who opened the art collections of their palaces to the public, promoting knowledge of art history and culture. Today the museums contain masterpieces of paintings, sculpture and other works of arts collected by the popes over the centuries.
The Sistine Chapel
One of the main attractions inside the Vatican Museums is the Sistine Chapel. The Chapel is named after his commissioner, Sixtus IV della Rovere who decided to have a large room built where the “Cappella Magna” once stood. The “Cappella Magna” was a medieval fortified hall that the Papal Court used for assemblies. The Sistine Chapel is believed to hold the same dimensions of “Solomons Temple’ in Jerusalem, which was destroyed by the Romans in 70A.D.
Construction of the Sistine Chapel started in 1475, during the Jubilee Year and ended in 1483, when on August 15th the Pope solemnly inaugurated the new Chapel dedicated to Our Lady of the Assumption.
It was not until 1506, that Pope Julius conceived a program to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The walls of the chapel had been decorated twenty years earlier. A draft by Matteo d’Amelia indicates that the ceiling was once painted blue like that of the Arena Chapel and decorated with gold stars, possibly representing the zodiacal constellations. It was Pope Julius’ intention and expectation that the iconography of the ceiling was to be read with many layers of meaning.
Scuptures in the Vatican Museums
Michelangelo, who was not primarily a painter but a sculptor, was reluctant to take on the work. Also, he was occupied with a very large sculptural commission for the pope’s own tomb. The Pope was adamant, leaving Michelangelo no choice but to accept. But when the war with the French broke out, diverting the attention of the Pope, Michelangelo fled from Rome to continue sculpting. The tomb sculptures, however, were never to be finished because in 1508 the pope returned to Rome victorious and summoned Michelangelo to begin work on the ceiling.
The contract was signed on May 10, 1508 and the ceiling completed in 1512. Other rooms of interest inside the museums are the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia and the Borgia Apartment. There was also a Collection of Modern Religious Art that was added to the museums in 1973.
What a Life Tours have provided extraordinary guided tours of Rome since 2009. They are the number 1 rated Vatican tours agency on Trip Advisor since 2011 and were recently awarded ‘Historical Tour of the Year 2016’ by the prestigious travel journal Luxury Travel Guide for their Colosseum Private tour. Find out more about their award-winning Rome tours.
Experience Rome with the #1 Ranked Vatican Tour Company on Tripadvisor Since 2011!
Vatican Early Access Before the Crowds Tour Overall rating: ★★★★★ 5 based on 22 reviews.
Click on the different category headings to find out more. You can also change some of your preferences. Note that blocking some types of cookies may impact your experience on our websites and the services we are able to offer.
Essential Website Cookies
These cookies are strictly necessary to provide you with services available through our website and to use some of its features.
We provide you with a list of stored cookies on your computer in our domain so you can check what we stored. Due to security reasons we are not able to show or modify cookies from other domains. You can check these in your browser security settings.
Google Analytics Cookies
These cookies collect information that is used either in aggregate form to help us understand how our website is being used or how effective our marketing campaigns are, or to help us customize our website and application for you in order to enhance your experience.
If you do not want that we track your visist to our site you can disable tracking in your browser here:
Other external services
We also use different external services like Google Webfonts, Google Maps, and external Video providers. Since these providers may collect personal data like your IP address we allow you to block them here. Please be aware that this might heavily reduce the functionality and appearance of our site. Changes will take effect once you reload the page.
Google Webfont Settings:
Google Map Settings:
Google reCaptcha Settings:
Vimeo and Youtube video embeds: