When traveling to Rome, one of the highlights is taking the time to visit Vatican City and specifically the Vatican Museums. Throughout history, the Popes have collected artistic treasures from throughout the world. The majority of the artwork that the church has collected is not on display, but what is on display is overwhelming and can’t be taken in during a single visit to the museums or even to just one of the museums. We were on a tour of Vatican City and our guide asked us whether we wanted to focus on the paintings or on the sculptures since there wouldn’t be time to see both. We decided upon the sculptures, but we really wish we could have had enough time to see both.
There are 54 galleries spread out inside of the museums and even 4 museums dedicated to the various sculptures. With over 50,000 pieces of art and approximately 20,000 of them on display, the total area of the museums is daunting. Included in the galleries is the final stop on any tour to the museums, which is the Sistine Chapel. You often get very limited time inside of the Sistine Chapel, but we were fortunate to be able to stay as long as we wanted, which was truly a memory that we will never forget. Photography is not allowed, although some people were sneaking photos, but we chose to obey the rules and not take any photos ourselves.
The very first piece of art collected and put on display at the museums over 500 years ago is the Laocoön and his Sons, which truly is an amazing marble sculpture with incredible details. It was put on display one month after its discovery in 1506 at a vineyard in Rome. There were so many interesting pieces of art that we couldn’t come close to describing them all here, but one other statue that we found fascinating was of a man with a child on his shoulder with such lifelike eyes. One thing that is hard not to notice is that many of the statues have been “censored” by the church through the addition of fig leaves, which we think is a shame since it modifies the original sculpture.
Like many other large museums, to truly appreciate all of the artwork you would need to visit many times and spend more time truly enjoying each piece of art. At a certain point, when you are walking past masterpiece after masterpiece, the mind starts to tune out and you stop absorbing the beauty that is in front of you. No visit to Vatican City would be complete without visiting the museums, especially to see the spectacular Sistine Chapel.