Vatican Museums - Filip Šubrt Photo

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Vatican City Galleries

Vatican Museums

The birth of the Museum was almost by chance: it all began in 1506, when an ancient sculpture was found in a vineyard on the Esquiline Hill near Nero's Domus Aurea. It was only later that it was recognized as one of the most famous statues ever: the Laocoonte, described even by the Latin author Pliny. The subject of the work is taken from an episode of Virgil's Aeneid in which the seer and priest Laocoonte, for having predicted Ulysses' use of the Trojan Horse, was punished by the gods who sent two enormous snakes to strangle him and his two children in their deadly coils.


Like all the pontiffs, Pope Julius II had always shown great interest in artwork, and he immediately summoned Michelangelo and Giuliano da Sangallo to authenticate the sculpture. The pope then decided to acquire it, making sure no one else could do so before he did.


So the dramatic Laocoonte was put on exhibit in the Vatican, enriching Pope Julius II's collection that was the seed of what would ultimately become the Vatican Museums. The Laocoonte was placed in Bramante's Belvedere Courtyard where Julius II grouped all his ancient statuary, transforming it into the "Courtyard of the Statues". Visitors came from all over the world just to admire the sculptures and artists stopped there to copy the masterworks.


The Museums as they appear today, were created in the second half of the 18th century and are made up of two parts: the actual Museum and the popes palaces, naturally only the portions open to the public. The visit is an incredible stroll through the history of art where you can meet the greatest artists ever, through their most important works. You can organize your visit according to the time you have at your disposal; the shortest takes at least two hours, the longest, around six. You'll discover masterpieces in a sort of crescendo as you pass from one room to another; in fact, the rooms themselves are works of art, frescoed by artists like Fra Angelico, Pinturicchio or Raphael.

The Cortile del Belvedere

the Belvedere Courtyard, designed by Donato Bramante from 1506 onwards, was a major architectural work of the High Renaissance at the Vatican Palace in Rome; its concept and details reverberating in courtyard design, formalized piazzas and garden plans throughout Western Europe for centuries. Conceived as a single enclosed space, the long Belvedere court connected the Vatican Palace with the Villa Belvedere in a series of terraces connected by stairs, and was contained on its sides by narrow wings. Bramante did not see the work completed, and before the end of the sixteenth century it had been irretrievably altered by a building across the court, dividing it into two separate courtyards.

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