The Vatican Museums are housed in the apartments and palaces of previous Pope’s, all now museums and galleries with hundreds of works that have been accumulated by the Roman Catholic Church over the centuries. Sounds like something to see, definitely! Bonus is, the museum is free on the last Sunday of the month. It did mean there was a mega queue (45 minutes at 9am) but at least we saved 15 euros each!
The Vatican Museums are massive, you could spend hours and hours in there. We had the choice of the short walk or the long one. We did a bit of the long one but mostly kept walking, less stopping. Room after room after room of art and galleries.
We were definitely impressed by the Gallery of Maps – a long room which had maps of the different provinces of ancient Italy hanging on the walls, commissioned in 1580. But also such as stunning ceiling.
The four Stanze di Raffaello (Raphael’s Rooms) were amazing – a series of frescoes in the public part of the papal apartments. This first room is the Room of Constantine, which takes its name from Constantine (306-337 A.D.), the first Christian emperor to officially recognize the Christian faith, granting freedom of worship. Raphael actually died before the work was finished (1520).
The Room of the Segnatura, the 3rd of Raphael’s Room, contains Raphael’s most famous frescoes. Besides being the first work executed by the great artist in the Vatican they mark the beginning of the high Renaissance. Originally the room was used by Julius II (pontiff from 1503 to 1513) as a library and private office and then later by Leo X (pontiff from 1513 to 1521) as a small study and music room, in which the pontiff also kept his collection of musical instruments.
The Room of the Fire in the Borgo is the 4th of Raphael’s Room. At the time of Leo X (pontiff from 1513 to1521) the room was used as a dining room and the task of frescoing the walls was assigned to Raphael who entrusted a large part of the work to his school. This fresco below is of the crowning of Charlemagne, which took place in St Peter’s on Christmas night in 80 0AD, forming the foundation of the Holy Roman Empire.
There are so so many things to see at the Vatican Museums, but it was a warm day and the museum was *packed* because it was free Sunday. So, aside from the stunning Sistine Chapel (which you can’t take any photos in: there are plenty of images online at the official website ), the other reason we wanted to go to the museums was to see the Borgias Apartments.
Alexander Borgia was Pope from 1492 til his death, and was one of the most controversial of the Renaissance popes. Which is why he makes the focus for a TV show, The Borgias starring Jeremy Irons. Though, as the apartments were so closely associated with the despised Borgia family, it was abandoned in 1503 after the death of Pope Alexander VI.
The rooms are fairly bare and dimly lit, with half the rooms inaccessible. There are recognizable details from the Borgia reign, though. The blue Spanish tiles below my feet are from the Borgia period.
And obviously, this mantle must’ve been engraved during the Borgia papacy as well.
Impressive art, beautiful Renaissance frescoes, the Borgias apartments and the Sistine Chapel – exactly what we expected from a visit to the Vatican Museums. Admittedly, we only paid attention to the highlights and it would’ve been more meaningful with an audio guide (the queue was massive – I recommend you download one before you go). Regardless, the highlights were seen and we can always go back sometime to get the full tour. We might even pay for it too.
Maybe we’ll go of the Vatican Guards tour too.