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I seem to be
starting a trend here. That is, I find myself wanting to say that
we just didn't have enough time to see everything. But we expected
that at the Vatican Museums. The collections of the Vatican
are overwhelming. There is something fascinating to be found with
every step that you will take.
In the photo below you can see the new entrance to the Vatican Museums
located on the Viale Vaticano (in Italian territory). The statues
above the entrance were sculpted by a man named Pietro Melandri sometime
around 1932 when this entrance was built. The statues portray Michelangelo
(left) and Raphael (right) supporting the coat-of-arms of Pius XI.
through ( or scroll through ) the entrance, step into history, and start your tour with
one of the links at the bottom of this page.
A Brief History of the Vatican City
the official residence of the bishops of Rome was not the Vatican, but
the Lateran Palace, which once belonged to the Roman family of the Laterans,
and was donated to the Roman Church. At this point in History St. Peter's was an out
of the way basilica reserved for burials. The first to build at the
Vatican was Pope Symmachus in 501. He built two Episcopal residences
at the sides of the basilica. In 781 Charlemagne altered, for his
own use, a palace standing to the north of the basilica. Eugene III
built a "new palace", which Innocent III enlarged and enclosed within turreted
Nicholas III was the first pope to adopt the Vatican as his permanent residence.
For this reason he began, but did not complete, a fortified residence with
angle towers, built around the present Court of the Pappagallo. He
also built a defensive wall, reinforced by battlements and towers, which
probably extended to the north as far as the Mount of St. Egidius, where
two centuries later Innocent VIII was to build his Belvedere Palace.
The military character of these early buildings testifies to their use
by the popes as an emergency refuge.
The first reference to an art collection (or a "cabinet of rarities")
in the Library, founded by Sixtus IV in 1475, goes back to the prefecture
of Marcello Cervini, later Pope Marcellus II (1555).
The Vatican City has about 900 inhabitants (including only 200 women),
and covers an area of 44 hectares (1045m. x 850m.). It has a military
organization (the Swiss Guard, consisting of about one hundred men, who
protect the Pope's person and the main entrances to the City); a flag (yellow
and white with St. Peter's keys under the triple crown); a national anthem
(the Pontifical March by Charles Gounod); its own currency, postage stamps
and car license plates.
City State has, along with the rest of the world, emerged from history to be recognized by the international community as a legal sovereign
body with membership to various international organizations (Universal
Postal Union, International Telecommunications Union, International Union
for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works).
| As you can see in the
image above, you are not the only one who would like to see the treasures housed
in the Vatican Museums. We arrived at 8 am on a Saturday morning.
This is one of the longest lines I have ever seen. You are only seeing
about one quarter of the line in the photo on the left. The bulk
of the visitors are out of site around the corner. Several vendors
have booths set up to sell all kinds of Vatican/Rome souvenirs, T-shirts
In the Jubilee year (2000)
the lines were even worse than those shown here. In addition
to the normal throngs of visitors the Vatican hosted some 80 million pilgrims
that made the pilgrimage to Rome.
Admission to the Museums was 6 Euro (appx. $7.00 US)
After you brave the line and make your way through the entrance you will
find yourself in an atrium. The photo above shows the glass
ceiling and the stunning bronze balustrade which was sculpted by Antonio Maraini in the classical style. The winding double helix ramp was, until
recently, used by all visitors touring the Vatican Museums.
This magnificent spiral ramp (left), designed by Giuseppe Momo in 1932,
transports you from the street level up to the floor of the Museums.
The ramp consists of two intertwined spirals; one leads up and another
leads down. In the picture on the left you can see that people are
entering the Museum on the left. While the right hand side of the
ramp (the exit) is empty. Nobody is exiting because this picture
was taken just after the opening time.
for the Information in this tour:
Francesco. Ed. Guide to the Vatican Museums and City. Vatican City:
Tipografia Vaticana., 1986
I have included information from the exhibits at the Vatican Museum and
notes from the lecture of Professor B. Nucci (University of Maryland University
College - European Division)