The Treasures of the Vatican MuseumsRome, Italy
Let’s set out to explore the stunning galleries of the Vatican Museums. Marveling at the iconic treasures of the Vatican, you’ll discover the very heart of the Italian Renaissance. The Vatican, one of Rome’s must-see attractions, invites you on a stirring journey full of history, art and more art!
1. The Laocoön | inv 1059The Laocoön group is an emblematic work portraying human agony. A distressed figure is presented wrestling with sea serpents, which swirl about his tortured limbs.
2. The School of AthensThe School of Athens, one of Raphael’s most famous frescoes, is a celebration of the great philosophers who defined Western thinking. Who’s who?
3. The Creation of Man by MichelangeloWhen the Sistine Chapel ceiling was commissioned to Michelangelo, many would have expected him to fall flat, being less accustomed to painting than he was to sculpting. Yet, it proved to be his greatest triumph!
A hot-headed priest
The Laocoön | inv 1059The plan was perfect. After a decade of toil trying to overtake the city of Troy, the Greeks finally concocted a viable plan of attack. Thanks to the clever idea of Odysseus, a master craftsman built a large wooden horse, which was hollow and big enough for fifty men to hide inside. It would be placed outside the walls of Troy to make the Trojans falsely assume that it was a harmless gift and when the Trojans wheeled it in their city, they would unknowingly let the enemy in. And this is how things happened; a man named Sinon explained to the Trojans that the horse was a peace offering left by the Greeks, who finally realized they could never cease Troy, so they sailed away leaving him behind as a human sacrifice. All Trojans were delighted apart from a priest named Laocoön, who was the only to debate against the obvious naivety of accepting gifts from the Greeks. At the request of Athena, so angered by his stubbornness, Poseidon sent his sea serpents to devour Laocoön and his sons. The scholars of Rhodes immortalized the dramatic height of this scene in stone during the middle of the first century BC.
A last minute change
The School of AthensInterestingly, there is one man, who originally was absent from Raphael’s preliminary drawings for the School of Athens. If one were to consult the preliminary drawings for the School of Athens and compare them to the fresco, one figure would be missing from the cartoon. It is the seated figure writing behind a desk representing Heraclitus, a quite pessimistic and obscure thinker, known as the “Weeping Philosopher”. Ironically, he is portrayed after Michelangelo! The great philosopher and the Renaissance painter were quite similar in many ways, as they were both melancholic and tended to avoid the company of others. Why was Raphael’s famous rival included in the painting as well? After seeing Michelangelo’s work in the Sistine, Raphael decided to insert his portrait in the painting. Was it a way to show his true admiration or an act of wry humor?
The fresco technique
The Creation of Man by MichelangeloEvery inch of the Sistine Chapel is painted in fresco. The word fresco refers to both technique and result. This type of wall painting is created using a fresh and humid preparation layer. The coating was made of lime or gypsum mortar, and artists had to add the colors while the coating was still wet. Through a series of chemical reactions, the color pigments mixed with water would merge with the coating. This is what made fresco most resistant. Painting fresco is a difficult feat to accomplish because the amount of time available to complete the actual painting is greatly reduced by the drying speed of the coating—on average, 6 hours a day. Once it is dry, no more chemical reaction can be induced. Let’s note here that Michelangelo did his frescoed ceiling alone and without electricity!
I am an internal and authorized tour guide for the Vatican, Vatican City Europe, and professional artist. In the mornings I take people through Michelangelo's masterpieces....the evenings, embark on my own artistic journey.
Contributors and Bibliography
|Address||Entrance to the Museums on Viale Vaticano (northern side of the Vatican Wall)|
|Starting point||Entrance to the Vatican museums|
|Finishing point||Exit to the Vatican Museums (next to the entrance, Viale Vaticano street)|
|Areas||Pineone Courtyard, Pio Clementine Museum, Gallery of the Candellabras, Gallery of the Tapestries, Gallery of the Maps, Sobieski Room, Room of the Immaculate Conception, Raphael Rooms, Contemporary Art and Borgia Apartments, Sistine Chapel|
|Opening hours||Monday through Saturday, 9am to 6pm. The entrance doors close at 4:00 pm. Last Entrance into the Sistine Chapel is 5:30pm. The last Sunday of the month the Museums are free (not recommended to visit at this time). From April to October, the Vatican is also open in the evenings from 7-11pm. Some sections, however, such as the Pinacoteca, are closed. Closed: on Sundays and religious holidays|
|Additional admission||Full price ticket: Euro 21,00. Reduced ticket: Euro 12,00.|
|Comments||The Vatican Museums entrance is accessible from Viale Vaticano 00165 Roma RM, Italy on the northern side of the city state. Metro: Line A, Ottaviano-S. Pietro Station Bus: 40, 64, 62, 81, stop Viale Vaticano/ Musei Vaticani Tram: 19 to Piazza Risorgimento|
Why take a self-guided tour?
This is a self-guided tour based on the award-winning storytelling concept developed by Clio Muse and the fascinating narratives prepared by our handpicked destination experts.
You can enjoy each multilingual tour by using your smartphone or tablet at your own pace even if you are offline. The interactive map on your screen will guide you step-by-step as you explore all points of interest along your route. Each stop comes with a selection of our signature stories allowing you to tailor the tour experience to your personal interests and schedule.
After downloading Clio Muse app, you can access this tour and activate it any moment you wish and also repeat it any time. To best enjoy our multimedia self-guided tour (comprising maps, video, audio and text) we recommend the use of headphones.