- Vatican Museums: Octagonal Courtyard -

One of the world's most significant museums is represented by the Vatican Museums, with their exceptional collection of works of art. Among the works from ancient times are pieces of an inestimable value, such as the Apoxyomenos, a known replica of the bronze original by Lisippo, the Apollo of the Belvedere, a Roman Imperial-Age copy of a Greek original, or the famous Laocoonte. Another work that considerably impressed the artists of the 1500s, in particular Michelangelo, is the famous Belvedere Torso.

But the splendid universe of the Vatican Museums is the fruit of the union of other small worlds, which formed over the centuries through the work of the popes. The Gregorian Etruscan Museum, founded by Pope Gregory XVI in 1837, houses the precious treasures from the excavations in Southern Etruria when this was still part of the Papal State. When the control of the pope over the territory ended, the collection was enlarged only by the acquisition of private collections. The materials displayed range from the 9th to the 1st century BC.

The Gregorian Egyptian Museum was commissioned in 1839 by Gregory XVI. It houses Egyptian archaeological treasures acquired by the popes in the late 1700s and statues brought to Rome in the imperial age, dating from 2600 BC to the Coptic era (641 AD). Of exceptional workmanship are the black basalt statues in imitation of the Egyptian style, from the Villa of the Emperor Hadrian.

The Pius Clementine Museum was founded by Clement XIV and Pius VI to preserve Greek and Roman masterpieces; from the works of Lisippo to the Apollo of the Belvedere from the Agora of Athens, to the celebrated Laocoonte, enclosed in the splendid architecture of Bramante. The Chiaramonti Museum is named after pope Pius VII who had it built. It houses about a thousand items: sarcophagi imperial portraits and statues of deities, arranged in a long gallery decorated in 1807 by the sculptor Antonio Canova.

After numerous vicissitudes, during which the masterpieces were moved several times within the Apostolic Palaces, the Vatican Picture Gallery was built, inaugurated in 1932 on the orders of Pius XI. It was built in the 19th century Square Garden, isolated and surrounded by avenues in order to ensure an optimal light, careful conservation and full enjoyment of its contents. But the collection dates back to Pius VI who around 1790 had created a first collection of 118 paintings, although these were partly transferred to Paris in 1797.

The first idea of a picture gallery open to the public came about only after the fall of Napoleon, when a large part of the works removed were returned to the State of the Church; now the paintings on display are 460 and go from the 12th to the 19th century. Under the splendid roof are works by Giotto, Raphael, Leonardo, Titian and Caravaggio, to name just a few artists.

The Gregorian Profane Museum, originally instituted by Gregory XVI in 1844 in the Lateran Palace, was transferred to the Vatican only in 1970. It houses original Greek sculptures, Greek copies from the Roman period and Roman sculptures. Also the Ethnological Missionary Museum, inaugurated by Pius XI in 1926, was originally in the Lateran. It is a collection of works of art and historical records from the most remote parts of the world reached by the papal missions.

(Virtual panorama author: Panoleku)