The Gregoriano Profano Museum was founded in the Lateran Apostolic Palace at the behest of Gregory XVI Cappellari on 16 May 1844. The findings of the pontifical archaeological excavations of the previous decades in Rome and in nearby areas (Cerveteri, Veio, Ostia) were exhibited there, along with many other antiquities that had until then been packed into the sculpture storage deposits. During the 1960s all the collections previously held in the Lateran Palace were transferred to the Vatican, where in June 1970 the new wing was inaugurated. The architectural project, strongly encouraged by Pope Paul VI, was entrusted to the practice of Vincenzo, Fausto and Lucio Passarelli. The building is notable for its use of natural light, which is diffused through large windows and skylights, and maximised byo the absence of distinct divisions within the space. Indeed, the partitions between the display zones are frequently made of metal grills, upon which which many of the materials are secured, also providing extreme flexibility in terms of layout, which tends to be based on the origins of the exhibits.
The Gregoriano Profano Museum documents various moments and themes in classical art, from Ancient Greece through to the late Imperial Roman age. The museum route begins with the section devoted to original Greek sculptures, made up mostly of funerary steles, votive reliefs and fragments of architectural sculptures. The visitor then passes through spaces dedicated to copies and reconstructions of Greek originals made during the Roman age, especially portraits and ideal sculpture.
Sculpture of the Imperial Roman age is particularly prominent within the collection, represented by important works from public and private buildings and monuments, as well as portraits and iconic statues. These are accompanied by a well-structured collection of funerary sculpture (urns, altars and sarcophagi).