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Make Time To See The Vatican Museums - You Won't Regret It

We could use all of the time we have to discuss the Vatican Museums just listing the vast number of galleries and museums that make up this big collection of art showcases. And if we tried to list the number of artists and great works of art you can find in the Vatican Museums, it would fill a book! In fact, there are such books in the Vatican library that catalog every work this important collection owns and when and where they are on display.

It was 1506 when Pope Julius II started the museum with a humble acquisition of the sculpture of Laocoon and his sons, as they fight off the grips of an aggressive sea serpent. From that simple start, the Vatican Museums now consists of literally dozens of galleries that can boast holdings of outstanding artwork in the thousands.

A great example of the diversity of these collections is the Etruscan Museum which opened in 1837. This collection is charged with caring for some rare and precious excavated samples of some very ancient art that came from archaeological digs in southern Etruria and surrounding vicinities. These art works reflect the style of the Roman Empire not far away in the mosaics and very old sarcophagi that were held in the Egyptian Museum.

Another fascinating collection is the Gallery of Tapestries which - as the title implies - is a museum devoted entirely to woven wall hangings from the 15th through 17th centuries. These richly colored tapestries were first shown in 1814 and they are such great works of art that they would be sought after by any major museum or collector in the world.

Not far from the Gallery of Tapestries is the Gallery of Maps which is actually named for the amazing painted walls of the structure itself. Here you will find 49 panels that artistically display the many regions of the world and - taken together - form a map that is as fascinating as it is artistically meaningful. Before navigators had modern satellite tracking systems, this kind of mapping was the modern technology of the time that the church depended on to manage its affairs around the world.

The Raphael Rooms are not to be missed if you are scheduling some time to see the Vatican Museums. There you will find four rooms all connected, that were constructed between 1447 and 1455. In those four rooms are some of the great works of the famous artist Raphael. It is interesting that the rooms were named that way because of the work Raphael himself did in decorating each room, not because they are devoted to showcasing his art.

It doesn't take much guessing to know what is in the Vatican Picture Gallery. But it is definitely worth a visit to see great art by some of the great masters of history including Van Dyck, Perugino, Poussin and Giotto.
A gallery that has an imaginative name but is often misleading, is the Gregorian Museum of Profane Art. It is not about profanity in the modern sense of the word. Rather that designation only means that the works of art contained in this gallery are of a secular nature. A new citizen of the Vatican Museums, it contains such things as Roman sculptures from the Imperial period, as well as the Republican time frame, sarcophagi and other things from these eras as well.

Three years after the opening of the Gregorian Museum of Profane Art, the Carriage Pavilion opened. The building is located under the Square Garden and it is used to display the vehicles that have been used over the centuries for the Pope and other high Vatican officials to ride in. Along with the many carriages you can inspect in the Carriage Pavilion, you will also find supplemental items like pictures of parades or times when Popes were in processions, as well as the harnesses for the horses and other support items that were used for upkeep and documentation of these vehicles.

But there is no question that the crowning moment of any visit to the Vatican Museums will be the time you spend in the world renowned Sistine Chapel, to take in the huge masterpiece that Michelangelo painted on the Chapel ceiling. As you gaze up you will know this is a moment you will remember for life. But don't miss out on Michelangelo's Last Judgment, which he came back and added to the chapel 20 years later.

But there is no question that it is that amazing ceiling painting that will be the most memorable part of your visit. The nine panels of the display show many personalities from the Bible including Sibyls, some random male nudes and Noah. But the image that has made this painting internationally known is of Jehovah reaching out to give life to Adam by the touch of his finger. The great philosopher Goethe once wrote about this painting:

"Without having seen the Sistine Chapel, one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving."
Goethe's words could easily to applied to hundreds of other outstanding art works by hundreds of master artists whose work is on display in the many buildings of the Vatican Museums.

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