The Pio Clementino Museum, nestled within the Vatican City, is an art lover’s paradise and a testament to the rich historical and cultural legacy of Rome. Founded by Pope Clement XIV in the 18th century, this museum hosts an exquisite collection of ancient Greek and Roman sculptures. So, what can you expect if you plan on visiting? From Nero’s Bathtub to the Muses Room, we’ve curated your ultimate guide to seeing the best of the best during your visit. Let’s take a look!
What is the Pio Clementino Museum?
Situated in the heart of Vatican City, the Pio Clementino Museum is part of the grand complex of Vatican Museums. Named after Pope Clement XIV and his successor, Pope Pius VI, this museum was established to showcase a spectacular array of classical antiquities. In addition to its astounding collection, the museum itself, with its exquisitely decorated halls and courtyards, is a masterpiece of neoclassical and Enlightenment aesthetics.
In short, the Pio Clementino Museum offers a unique opportunity to delve into the artistic sensibilities of ancient civilisations, wrapped in the embrace of papal history. And if you want the best experience, don’t forget to opt for one of our skip-the-line tours in Vatican – you’ll get to tour the historic Vatican with an experienced guide and enjoy the intimacy of a private, smaller group for your tour.
Must-sees at the Pio Clementino Museum
The Octagon Yard
The Apollo Del Belvedere The Octagon Yard, one of the museum’s most significant areas, is home to an array of ancient sculptures, with the Apollo Del Belvedere taking centre stage. This marble sculpture, crafted during the Roman Imperial era, depicts the Greek god Apollo in a moment of triumphant poise. A testament to the mastery of the anonymous sculptor, the intricate detail in the god’s muscular build and the fluid motion of his robes are truly captivating.
Sarcophagus Of Saint Helen
A visit to the Sala a Croce Greca will present you with the magnificent Sarcophagus of Saint Helena. This impressive red porphyry sarcophagus is believed to have been the final resting place of Saint Helena, the mother of Constantine the Great. The elaborately carved battle scenes on its sides, showcasing the Romans’ victories over the Germans, are an enduring testament to the artist’s skill and the era’s narrative artistry.
The Sculptures Gallery: The Mattei Amazon
Housed in the elegant gallery of the Sala delle Muse, the Mattei Amazon is a sight to behold. This marble statue is a Roman copy of a Greek original and represents an Amazon warrior woman, a powerful figure in Greek mythology. The fine detail, from her complex drapery to the lifelike depiction of her physical strength, is a tribute to the sculptural artistry of the ancient world.
Laocoön And His Sons
Arguably one of the most famous works of antiquity, the statue of Laocoön and His Sons is a must-see. Located in the Laocoön Room, this masterpiece narrates a tragic scene from Virgil’s ‘Aeneid’. Laocoön, a Trojan priest, and his sons are depicted in their final moments of struggle against sea serpents. The palpable agony in Laocoön’s face, the dynamic twists of the serpents, and the stark rawness of human suffering make this sculpture an unforgettable viewing experience.
One of the more unexpected masterpieces of the Pio Clementino Museum is Nero’s Bathtub. This enormous basin, carved from a single piece of red porphyry, hails from the reign of the infamous Roman Emperor Nero. Despite its name, the basin was likely used as a pool rather than a bathtub. Its sheer size and the opulent material from which it’s crafted are reflective of Nero’s extravagant lifestyle. The bathtub is housed in the Sala Rotonda, a room designed in the style of the Pantheon, adding an extra layer of grandeur to the viewing experience.
The Muses Room: The Belvedere Torso
In the Sala delle Muse, dedicated to the nine Muses of Greek mythology, stands the Belvedere Torso. This intriguing marble sculpture depicts a male figure, truncated at the waist and missing its limbs. While its original identity is unknown, some theories suggest it may represent Hercules or Ajax. Despite its fragmented form, the power and vitality of the figure are unmistakable, and the anatomy and musculature are rendered with remarkable realism. It’s believed that this work profoundly influenced Michelangelo during his creation of the Sistine Chapel, making it an essential piece in the evolution of Western art.