Buon giorno and welcome to A Road Retraveled’s comprehensive Vatican Museums tour. In this episode we are going to visit the Vatican Museums and cover some of the most important highlights that are not to be missed as well as history tidbits and anecdotes.
The Video and show notes below are for Part 1. To continue your Vatican Museums visit, when you finish to go Part 2.
Covering nearly 9 miles of precious art, and welcoming nearly 4 million visitors a year, it’s no wonder the Vatican Museums are among the most popular in the world and of course in Italy!
Pope Julius II…the warrior Pope with expensive taste and questionable tactics, and responsible for rebuilding St Peter’s Basilica into what we know today, and establishing the Swiss Guards…also founded the Vatican Museums in 1506.
An ancient Greek statue was unearthed in Rome that year, and it caused a huge public sensation because the long lost Laocoon was thought to have been destroyed by Barbarians in the 5th century. Michelangelo, who was working at the Vatican at the time, was sent by the Pope to investigate the discovery…and based on Michelangelo’s recommendation, the Pope purchased the sculpture from the farmer on whose land it was discovered. Later, the Laocoon was put on display inside the Pope’s diagonal courtyard where we can admire it today. It was the immediate popularity of this statue that prompted the Pope to open his private collection to the public – the beginning of the Vatican Museums.In the video you will learn WHO was Laocoon and why the twisted marble figures are depicted with snakes violently attacking them…and when it was created and by whom. Also in the video we learn WHO this sculpture inspired most and where in the Vatican we see the results of this inspiration.
Also in the octogonal Courtyard you will see the beautiful statue of Apollo of Belvedere. Belvedere is the name associated with the courtyard of Belvedere where the statue was first brought to after it was discovered. The statue depicts a nude Apollo just having shot his arrow at Pytho, the serpent that guarded the Oracle of Delphi. This statue also inspired many artists and continues to be admired as one of the most beautiful ancient pieces of sculpture.In the video you will also learn why they’re called the Vatican Museums (plural).
This neo classical style room was built in the late 1800’s returning to the Classical days of Roman Glory. Sculptures of various pagan gods, goddesses and ancient Roman emperors are lined up inside niches along the circular walls.Watch in the video which famous dome the one in the Round Room was modeled after.
In the center of the room is a porphyry tub that once belonged to Emperor Nero in his opulent imperial villa Domus Aurea (the Golden House). On the floor is a 3rd century mosaic from the region of Umbria.
This 2nd century BC torso sitting on animal skins was previously thought to have been Hercules. The twisted pose, similar to that of Laocoon, became highly influential for Renaissance artists like Michelangelo who studied it closely and incorporated it in his famous Sistine Chapel frescoes.
This is one of my most favorite museums I’d love to share with you.
Found by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837 have on display archaeological finds in the region of southern “Etruria” (Etruria is the name of the area previously occupied by the Etruscans), not far from Rome. Here you have a wealth of artifacts that date between the 9th-1st centuries BC….the 8 centuries that the Etruscans existed before they were overtaken by the Romans. The huge collections of ceramics, bronze, silver and gold narrate the history of this mysterious, yet highly skilled and advanced civilization whose many inventions were later attributed to the Romans.
Some, even say the name “Vatican” is Etruscan, from the Pagan Etruscan goddess “Vatica” who guarded the necropolis on the Vatican hill.In the video you will find out which impressive inventions that are thought to be Roman are actually Etruscan!
The Etruscans continue to mystify scientists and historians even today as the Etruscan alphabet has yet to be deciphered entirely, and their intricate unique method of gold granulation that made their jewelry so impressive is still not known by modern day goldsmiths.
In the video you will see some every day Etruscan items made of bronze that look eerily similar to many household items we use today! When paired with military helmets, shields and weaponry, they definitely don’t look like anything created by an ancient civilization!
Some of the Etruscan life and beliefs have been depicted on dimensional reliefs carved into sarcophagi. You’ll be surprised to see winged figures that look like Christian angles carved on sacorphagi…but they were carved centuries before Christianity.
You don’t have to go Egypt to get close to a Mummy or an Egyptian sarcophagus. The 9 room Egyptian museum is comprised of sculptures, mummies, sarcophagi, and other artifacts that were brought to Rome – mostly during the Imperial era where Egyptian influence reigned.
Some of the artifacts were brought here from Villa Adriana (Hadrian’s Villa) in Tivoli. Others came from private collections.
The Etruscan and Egyptian museums are wonderful for children to explore as they learn about fascinating ancient civilizations.
Where to book a private guided tour of the Vatican with a licensed tour guide: My Rome Guides