After being in Rome for over a month, I figured it was about time I visited the Vatican! The Vatican Museums host some of the world’s most famous artworks that have been collected by the Popes over centuries. Most notably, the Vatican is the home of the Sistine Chapel, one of the most famous pieces of art known to man. Over 5 million people visit the Vatican every year! The line to get in is several hours long, so I would highly recommend buying tickets online ahead of time. It cost about 4 euros more, but it’s worth skipping the enormous line. Also, make sure you remember to dress appropriately to enter a chapel (no knees or shoulder exposed).
The Belvedere Courtyard was my favorite place in the museums. It’s an open area with a fountain and greenery that hosts (in my opinion) some of the most interesting works in the Vatican. There you’ll find famous sculptures like the Apollo Belvedere and Laocoön and His Sons tucked away in alcoves. Johann Winckelmann, a German author who is often considered to be the father of art history, thought the Apollo Belvedere was the perfect representation of Greek beauty. The marble statue depicts the Greek god Apollo draped in robes and shooting an arrow. The artist of this sculpture is unknown, but it is considered to be one of the most beautiful sculptures unearthed in Italy. Laocoön is an exciting marble piece that depicts Laocoön and his sons struggling against a serpent. It was inspired by Virgil’s tale of the founding of Rome, making it a very important piece of art in Roman history. This piece is interesting because it influenced one of the greatest Renaissance artists—Michelangelo, who later painted the Sistine Ceiling.
After seeing the sculptures in the Belvedere Courtyard, we walked through the Pinacoteca gallery, which hosts Renaissance and Baroque paintings. The Stefaneschi Polyptych, an altarpiece by Giotto, who is considered the father of Italian painting, is on display in this section of the Vatican. Keep an eye out for it when you visit! The Pinacoteca gallery also has a sizable collection of Raphael paintings including the Madonna of Foligno and the Transfiguration. These paintings are huge and are in the end of the gallery; you can’t miss them! This gallery also has the only Leonardo da Vinci painting in Rome, Saint Jerome in the Wilderness. It’s unfinished, but still very impressive.
Speaking of impressive, the next part of the museums we headed to was the Sistine Chapel. Unfortunately, taking photos is not allowed in the chapel, but trust me when I say it’s worth the visit. The entire ceiling is covered by the amazing works of Michelangelo. The center of the ceiling depicts nine scenes from Genesis with the most famous being The Creation of Adam. The outer frame shows alternating scenes of ancient seers who predicted the coming of Jesus and Jesus’ ancestors. The paintings on the ceiling were so incredibly composed and detailed that Raphael, who was working on his painting The School of Athens in the Vatican at the same time as Michelangelo was painting the Sistine Chapel, saw the paintings and added a portrayal of Michelangelo among the philosophers of his fresco because he thought Michelangelo’s work was so magnificent.
The Vatican Museums house an amazing collection of art from the Greek, Roman, and Renaissance periods. No trip to Rome is complete without a day looking at the amazing history preserved in the halls of the Vatican.