Joy of Museums

Museums, Art Galleries and Historical Sites

Masterpieces of the Vatican Museums

Masterpieces of the Vatican Museums

Masterpieces of the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums are a collection of museums located in Vatican City, located in Rome, Italy. The Vatican Museums showcases historical and artistic works from the vast collection of works collected by many Popes of the Catholic Church over many centuries.

The Vatican Museums’ collections are over 70,000 works of which less than one-third are displayed at any point in time. There are 54 galleries in the museum with one of the key attractions being the Sistine Chapel.

  • Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Ceiling
    • The Sistine Chapel is the room where the College of Cardinals are locked in and required to decide on the next Pope. The walls and the ceiling are masterfully decorated. The walls are painted with frescoes by various artists, and Michelangelo painted the Masterpiece of the ceiling fresco.

      Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564) is one of the important Renaissance sculptors, painters and architects. He painted the Sistine Chapel from 1508 to 1512. The many figures painted on the high ceiling when viewed from the ground level look multidimensional and look like the sculptured figures we see in the Laocoön statute. The figures are depicted with the muscular strength to give them a presence that is powerful and at the same time beautiful.

  • Raffaello’s “School of Athens”
    • “The School of Athens” by Raphael is one of the most famous frescoes of the Italian Renaissance. It is widely reproduced because of its artistry and because of the subjects portrayed. In 1508, the 25-year old painter Raphael was summoned to the Vatican by Pope Julius II (1503-13) and given the most important commission of his career, the decoration of the Papal Apartments, including the Stanza Della Segnatura.

      Raphael used the ample space with imposing coffered vaults to paint imagines of the greatest philosophers, mathematicians, thinkers and artists of antiquity all in one area to symbolise the School of Athens.

  • Laocoön and His Sons
    • “Laocoön and His Sons” is one of the most famous ancient sculptures and a highlight of the Vatican Museums, ever since it was placed there on public display. The statue depicts Laocoön, the priest of Apollo from the city of Troy and his two sons who are locked in the coils of two serpents, on the steps of an altar.
  • “The Trials of Moses” by Sandro Botticelli
    • “The Trials of Moses” by Sandro Botticelli is a fresco, executed in 1481–1482 at the Sistine Chapel, Rome. The fresco shows four episodes from Moses’ life, taken from Exodus. Firstly, Moses is depicted on the right, killing the Egyptian who was mistreating a Hebrew and he is then shown fleeing to the desert. Moses is distinguishable in the scenes by his yellow dress and the green cloak.

      In the next episode, Moses fights the shepherds who were preventing Jethro’s daughters, including his future wife, Zipporah from watering their herd at the well. In this episode, he is also shown taking water from the well to help water the flock.

      In the third scene, in the upper left corner, Moses removes his shoes and he then receives from God the mission to return to Egypt, to free his people, the Hebrews. In the final episode in the lower left corner, Moses is shown leading the Jews to the Promised Land. In total Moses appears seven times in this fresco.


“If someone had told me I would be Pope one day, I would have studied harder” 
– Pope John Paul I


Photo Credit: By Владимир Шеляпин (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons