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Exploring the Vatican Museums: An incredible collection of treasures and art

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Step into a world of timeless beauty and cultural riches as you explore the Vatican Museums, a tapestry of art, history, and human achievement that awaits your curiosity and appreciation.

Tourist Information

Opening Year1506
Getting thereBus (stops)
49, in front of the entrance to the Museum
32, 81, 982, Piazza del Risorgimento (end-of-line) (5-minute walk)
492, 990, Via Leone IV / Via degli Scipioni (5-minute walk).
19, Piazza del Risorgimento (5-minute walk).
When to visitThere is no better time to visit the Vatican when it is less crowded. The Vatican is the most popular tourist destination in Rome and there are always many tourists. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the best choices.
Mornings are crowded due to groups arriving early, afternoons are less crowded.
The winter months are less crowded than the summer months.
Tickets price / Visiting HoursMonday – Saturday: entrance from 9 am to 4 pm | closing time at 6 pm (exit from rooms half an hour before closing time).
Closed: Sunday, except the last Sunday of every month (free entrance from 9 am to 12.30 pm and closing at 2 pm), unless it coincides with Easter Sunday, 8th, 25th, and 26th of December, 1st, and 6th of January, 11th of February, 19th of March, 5th, and 6th of April, 1st of May, 29th of June and 15th of August.
The admission ticket to the Vatican Museums includes a visit to the Sistine Chapel.
Full:  € 17.00
Reduced: € 8.00
Scholastic Ticket:  € 4.00
*In order to avoid long queues we highly recommend you buy your ticket online with a € 4.00 fee from the official site.
On the last Sunday of every month, entrance is free.
09.00 a.m. – 02.00 p.m.
 (final entry 12.30 p.m.)
It will seem obvious, but we remind you that queues increase considerably on this occasion!
For precise visiting hours and ticket pricing information, kindly refer to the official website.

Location00120, Vatican City, Italy, Europe


What is the history and origin of the Vatican Museums?

The Vatican Museums were founded in the 16th century by Pope Julius II, who amassed an impressive collection of art and antiquities. These museums have evolved over time to become some of the largest and most important art collections in the world, including significant works from Roman Antiquity, the Italian Renaissance, and more.

The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased in the 16th century: Laocoön and His Sons were discovered on 14 January 1506, in a vineyard near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to examine the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The pope put the sculpture, which depicts the Trojan priest Laocoön and his two sons being attacked by giant serpents, on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.

In 1480 was discovered a Roman statue, ‘The Apollo of Belvedere’, still one of the highlights of the Vatican Museums. In 1503 Julius II had the statue placed in the Cortile Ottagono, an octagonal courtyard.

What Vatican Museums were famous for?

The Vatican Museums are Christian and art museums located in Vatican City.

Vatican Museums is one of the most visited art museums in the world.

Did you know that the Vatican Museums have an extensive art collection, considered one of the largest in the world? The collection spans over 9 miles and could wrap around the Vatican walls four and a half times. It’s made up of 1400 rooms, chapels, and galleries, which were once the wings of the Vatican Palace.

What is the Vatican?

The Vatican is a small sovereign state and the smallest country in the world. The Vatican has about 800 inhabitants. Citizenship is not guaranteed by birth, but by appointment, and is granted for as long as the person works within the Vatican State, ending when he no longer holds the position.

What are the most important points of attraction inside the museums?

Highlights include the Sistine Chapel, Stanza della Segnatura, Gallery of Candelabra, Gallery of Geographical Maps, and more. Each of these houses valuable works of art and artifacts.

It’s not advisable to attempt to view all the museums in a single visit, as the entire route spans seven kilometers. Instead, focus on a selection of highlights or museums that pique your interest. Additionally, ensure that you allocate sufficient time and energy to the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel, which are situated towards the end of the museum.

The Vatican Museums contain masterpieces of painting, sculpture, and other works of art collected by the popes through the centuries. The Museums include several monumental works of art, such as the Sistine Chapel, the Chapel of Beato Angelico, the Raphael Rooms and Loggia, and the Borgia Apartment.

The Octagon Court (Cortile Ottagonale)

The Octagon Court (Cortile Ottagonale), which is the oldest section of the Vatican Museums, is home to numerous masterpieces. One such masterpiece is the Apollo of Belvedere, a Roman replica of a Greek original created by Leochares. The statue depicts the god Apollo extending his arm and has been regarded as the epitome of aesthetics.

Bramante staircase

Before leaving the museum, you’ll have the opportunity to appreciate one of the world’s most renowned staircases – the Bramante Staircase. Designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932, this staircase features a double helix, with one leading upwards and the other downwards.

Vatican Museums, Bramante Staircase, Rome, Holiday and Trips
Bramante Staircase

Court of the Pinecone (Cortile della Pigna) – Fontana della Pigna

The main attraction of this central courtyard is the impressive bronze pine cone sculpture located here. Legend has it that the sculpture once served as a lid for the round opening in the center of the Pantheon’s vault during medieval times. However, historical evidence shows that the Pigna was originally a huge fountain located next to the Temple of Isis in Ancient Rome. Nowadays, the enormous statue can be found in the “Court of the Pinecone” right in front of the Catholic Vatican.

The Pinecone Courtyard, Vatican, Rome, Holiday and Trips
Court of the Pinecone (Cortile della Pigna)

It is considered the largest pine cone statue in the world.

What is the symbolic meaning of these pine cones?

There seems to be a mystery surrounding this statue. The answer is that pine cones have been used as a symbolic representation of human enlightenment, specifically the pineal gland or “Third Eye“, in various cultures throughout history. This gland is believed to be located at the center of the brain and is considered by some to be the biological Third Eye, responsible for awakening esoteric knowledge.

The pinecone symbol, often depicted on the papal staff, carries various symbolic meanings within the context of the Catholic Church and its tradition. This symbol is known as the “Pinecone finial” or “Pinecone crook.”

Here are some of the symbolic interpretations associated with the pinecone on the papal staff:

  • Eternal Life and Resurrection: The pinecone is seen as a symbol of eternal life and resurrection. This symbolism is derived from the pine tree’s evergreen nature, which remains alive and vibrant throughout the seasons, and its seeds, which can lay dormant for years before sprouting new life.
  • Renewal and Regeneration: The pinecone’s seeds represent the idea of renewal and regeneration.
  • Fertility and Abundance: In some cultures and belief systems, pinecone is associated with fertility and abundance due to the large number of seeds it can produce.
  • Spiritual Awakening: The pinecone can also represent spiritual awakening and enlightenment, signifying the opening of one’s spiritual consciousness to a deeper understanding and connection with God.

Sarcophagus of Helena

The Sarcophagus of Helena is a red porphyry coffin that was used to bury Saint Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great, after she passed away in 329. Although the coffin was emptied and left unoccupied for many years, it was eventually taken from its original location in the Mausoleum of Helena at Tor Pignatarra, which is located just outside the fortified walls of Rome. In the 18th century, it was moved to the Vatican museums and can now be found in the Sala a Croce Greca of the Pio-Clementine Vatican Museum.

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Sarcophagus of Helena

What legends do the Vatican Museums have?

The origin of sacred art

One legend says that the founding of the Muses of the Vatican began with Pope Julius II, who commissioned the gathering of an impressive collection of sacred art to complement and beautify the Vatican Church and papal buildings. This collection became the basis for the museum and evolved over the centuries.

Spirits of the Damned

There are stories of ghosts and spirits haunting the Vatican buildings. Some of these legends say that the spirits are of famous popes or historical figures who keep their presence in the Vatican museums and palaces.

Rebirth from the Underground

There is an urban legend that the Vatican has a vast network of underground tunnels and secret rooms, where treasures and artifacts of priceless value are stored. The Vatican is generally only open to the public in designated areas.

Vatican Library

Within the Vatican Museums is also the Vatican Library, which houses an impressive collection of rare manuscripts and old books. Access to this library is restricted and not normally open to the public. The Vatican Library holds medieval manuscripts and rare books dating from the early Christian era to the modern period. Some of these manuscripts can be hundreds of years old.

Vatican Panels

The star-shaped panels covering St. Peter’s Square were arranged in a specific pattern, and some have speculated that they represent an eight-pointed star, a symbol with occult or esoteric meanings.