Best 12 Things to See In Vatican Museum

The Vatican museum, a museum of museums founded in the early 16th century, is not just a collection of exquisite and rare artifacts.

Alongside St. Peter Basilica and St. Peter Square, The Vatican Museum is considered to be a must-see site in Vatican City as it offers a lot of art exhibits for visitors. 

With over 70,000 artifacts in the collection. The Vatican is one of the world’s largest and oldest museums, and there are a lot of things to see in Vatican Museum.

Out of this huge collection of art and artifacts, 20,000 are displayed prominently in over 54 galleries inside the Vatican Museum.

It houses extraordinary artistic rooms with significant historical and cultural values.

Vatican Museum welcomes over 2.5 million visitors from all over the world. 

All it takes to get to the museum is a general admission Vatican Museum Ticket, and you can witness this architectural beauty.

It will take a whole day if you plan to visit every museum and every room that comes under the premises of the Vatican Museums.

So, if you are falling short of time, it’s best to stick around the most famous sites inside the museum that attract the most tourists.

These are some of the most popular sites that one should not miss inside the Vatican museums:

Sistine Chapel

things to see in vatican museum
Image: MuseiVaticani

Initially known as Cappella Magna (Great Chapel), Sistine Chapel is notably the last room to visit inside the Vatican museum.

The frescos that decorate the interior of the room, particularly the Sistine chapel’s ceiling, are the reason behind the fame of the Sistine chapel. 

This beautiful artwork was painted by the Italian painter and sculptor, Michelangelo.

The frescoes around the walls of the Sistine chapel depict the stories from the life of Christ and Moses.

In order to explore this magnificent site and admire the beauty of the famous Sistine chapel, you must have a Vatican Museum Ticket as the chapel is the last room of the Vatican Museum.

Raphael’s Room

Raphel's Room
Image: MuseiVaticani

The Raphael’s room, commonly called The Stanza, is a set of rooms that was formerly intended as a suite of apartments for Pope Julius II. 

The fame of Raphael’s room lies mainly in the frescoes painted by Raphel, which depict Rome’s highly anticipated renaissance art.

Collection of contemporary art

Collection Of Contemporary Art
Image: MuseiVaticani

The contemporary art collection inside the Vatican museum comprises over 800 artworks, including paintings, sculptures, and graphic arts by over 250 international artists.

This collection’s artifacts date from the 19th century to the early 20th century.

You might be surprised to know that it took ten years to compile them.

Pio Clementino Museum

Pio Clementino Museum
Image: WalksInRome.com

The Pio Clementino Museum exhibits the pontifical collection of classical sculptures that dates back to the original collection of Pope Julius II.

This collection results from excavations in Rome and Lazio, combined with donations from collectors and antiquaries.

The treaty of Tolentino in 1797 made the papal states give up the museum’s masterpieces, handing them over to Napoleon.

However, after Napoleon’s defeat, much of this artwork was restored.

Jewish Lapidarium

Jewish Lapidarium
Image: MuseiVaticani

The Jewish Lapidarium’s collection inside the Vatican Museum consists of around 200 inscriptions found during the excavation of the Jewish catacombs of Monteverde. 

The catacombs that dated back to the 17th century were undiscovered until the start of the 20th century. 

The inscriptions excavated from the catacombs offer in-depth knowledge of the Roman Jewish community between the third and fourth centuries.

The Lapidarium is considered an essential Vatican collection of ancient inscriptions.

Famous exhibits to look inside Vatican Museum

Apart from the Vatican museum’s grand halls, it also houses some of the most extensive collections of ancient artifacts.

Some of those are listed below:

Bramante Staircase

Bramante Staircase
Image: WikiMedia.org

This iconic spiral staircase was designed initially by Bramante and later by Italian architect Giuseppe Momo in 1932. 

It is a replica of the original Bramante staircase built in 1505, inspired by its double helix design.

With this double helix design, the stairs were intended to maintain an uninterrupted passage in both directions without having to cross each other.

However, these stairs are now used to exit from the Vatican museum.

Raphael’s Transfiguration

The Transfiguration by Raphael is a masterpiece and one of the most iconic paintings on display in the Pinacoteca Apostolica Museums.  

The Transfiguration depicts both the human and divine nature of Jesus.

In the dark bottom half of the painting, a boy (possessed) can be seen along with his frantic parents.

People around them have stretched their hands in shock after realizing that faith in Jesus can cure the boy.

The upper half is painted in light colors, showing Jesus flanked by the prophet Elijah and Moses.

The Pinecone Courtyard

Pinecone Courtyard
Image: WalksInRome.com

The Pinecone Courtyard, also known as Cortile Della Pigna, is famous for its 13-foot bronze pinecone sitting at one end with two bronze peacocks on both sides.

The pinecone was found near Pantheons, around the baths of Agrippa, and dates back to the 1st century BCE.

It once was a large fountain, with water flowing from the top and running down its sides.

It also represents the Pineal gland, which is the symbol of the Third Eye, The Epicenter of Enlightenment.

It is a major attraction site inside the Vatican Museum.

The Laocoon 

Image: MuseiVaticani.va

The Laocoon sculpture is one of the most important pieces of ancient art in the Vatican art collection.

Dating back to around 30 BCE, the sculpture was found in 1506 on Esquiline Hill in Rome.

The sculpture depicts Laocoon, the Trojan priest, and his two sons getting killed by two giant sea serpents believed to be sent by the gods.

Porphyry bowl

Porphyry Bowl
Image: MuseiVaticani.va & Pinterest.com

The Porphyry Bowl is the largest one-piece stone bowl, a masterpiece from ancient Roman culture.

Carved out from a piece of Porphyry, a hard rock, it has a circumference of 15 meters, making it the second giant stone bowl after the granite bowl of Lustgarten in Berlin.

It was transported to the Vatican from the villa of Pope Julius III by Pope Clement IX. 

Today, it rests on the four lion’s feet upon a bronze pad at Sala Rotunda inside the Vatican Museum.

Apollo Belvedere

Apollo Belvedere is a greek sculpture made of marble and stems and dates back to around the 1st century. 

Found in the 15th century, this statue was once considered the most remarkable sculpture ever made and is now on display inside the Vatican Museum.

It was also the first piece of art in the collection of Vatican Museums, even before the museums were set up.

The sculpture portrays the god Apollo as an archer who just shot his arrow.

It was also Napoleon Bonaparte’s favorite sculpture, as he took it with him to the Louvre. 

The statue returned to the Vatican Museums after the defeat of Napoleon Bonaparte.

The Tapestries Hall

The Tapestries Hall
Image: Re-ThinkingTheFuture.com

The Tapestries Hall, also called Galleria degli Arazzi, is considered one of the must-see sites inside the Vatican Museum.

One cannot miss the Tapestries Hall, as the way to the Sistine Chapel crosses it. 

The roof of this hall deserves attention as it seems to be in 3D, but in reality, it’s painted.

Tapestries from two different periods and regions can be found on the walls of this hall.

Tapestries weaved in Brussels by Pieter van Aelst’s School can be seen on the left side of the aisle depicting the life of Jesus.

On the right side, Tapestries from the 17th century depict Pope Urban VIII’s life.

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Featured Photo by Nastya Dulhiier on Unsplash

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