Where can you visit 26 museums within a space of 26 miles that contain roughly 70,000 exhibits? That would be the Vatican Museums in Vatican City.
Founded by Pope Julius II in the 16th century, this world-renowned group of art and Christian museums houses the most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world, including the Stanza della Segnatura created by Raphael and the Sistine Chapel painted by Michelangelo. The Creation of Adam is inarguably the most famous fresco in the world, leaving many with a sense of reverential awe as they cast their eyes heavenward … viewing the outstretched finger of God touching the finger of His newly minted creation: man.
Besides very old religious art, more modern creative works depicting the divine are prominently featured in The Collection of Modern Religious Art. Added in 1973, the building houses paintings and sculptures from such artists as Paul Gauguin, Marc Chagall, Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dalí.
For those more interested in mummies than Monet, a trip to the Missionary Ethnological Museum will unearth a 2,900-year-old illustrated guide to mummification, among other intriguing displays. But Monet lovers do not have to leave disappointed. Housed on the ground floor of the Galleria Nazionale d’Arte Moderna is an impressive collection of modern art, including works from impressionists Claude Monet, Paul Cezanne, and Vincent van Gogh.
Intrigue and secrecy are also part of the Vatican Museums. Contained within the complex is the Passetto di Borgo that connects the pontiff’s official residence to Castel Sant’Angelo. This 2,600
Foot long elevated underground passageway saved the life of Pope Clement VII in 1527 when the soldiers of Holy Roman Emperor Charles V rampaged through Vatican City and murdered men and women of the cloth. Modern-day visitors wanting to flee from pursuers (either real or imagined) through this secret passageway can do so, but only for a limited time in the summer when it is open to the public.
For visitors with a love of history and art, there are more than a few “must sees”—including the oh-so-fun Spiral Staircase, a pair of staircases that theoretically allow people to go up and down without crossing each other; Raphael’s last painting, The Transfiguration, that depicts the dual human and divine nature of Jesus Christ; the magnificent Apollo Belvedere, a first century BC marble Greek sculpture that is said to be without a single flaw; and the Porphyry Basin, a massive basin made from cooled lava filled with crystal pieces.
But the crown jewel of museum art exhibits may just be The Resurrection of Christ tapestry located in The Gallery of the Tapestries. It is not just an exquisite piece of tapestry; it is an experience. Where else can you walk past an image of Jesus and have his eyes seemingly follow you as you walk? There’s an earthly explanation in the art world for this otherworldly phenomenon. It is called “moving perspective,” a technique found in paintings like the Mona Lisa, but purportedly only found in one tapestry in the world: The Resurrection of Christ tapestry.
Rome was not built in a day, and it is unlikely you could take in all the Vatican Museums have to offer in a day, either. But even if you are pressed for time, you will not want to miss a visit to the world’s most comprehensive complex of museums—a mecca where art intersects with faith in what is sure to be the sensory experience of a lifetime.
See where art meets Christianity and deepen your own faith with a trip to the
world-renowned Vatican Museums!