The history of the Vatican Museums

NICHOLAS V (1447-1455)
ALEXANDER VI (1492-1503)
ALEXANDER VI

NICHOLAS V (1447-1455)
ALEXANDER VI (1492-1503)

Fra Angelico and Pinturicchio decorate the private apartments of the Popes

 

JULIUS II (1503-1513)
JULIUS II

JULIUS II (1503-1513)

The beginnings of the Vatican Museums sculpture collection in the Octagonal Court 

GREGORY XIII (1572-1585)
GREGORY XIII

GREGORY XIII (1572-1585)

"Most Noble" Italy represented in the Gallery of Maps 

CLEMENT XIV (1769-1774)
PIUS VI (1775-1799)
PIUS VI

CLEMENT XIV (1769-1774)
PIUS VI (1775-1799)

The founding of the Pio Clementino Museum

PIUS VII (1800-1823)
PIUS VII

PIUS VII (1800-1823)

The inauguration of the Chiaramonti Museum and the New Wing

GREGORY XVI (1831-1846)
GREGORY XVI

GREGORY XVI (1831-1846)

The opening of three new museums: the Etruscan, the Egyptian and the Profano Lateranense

PIUS IX (1846-1878)
PIUS X (1903-1914)
PIUS X

PIUS IX (1846-1878)
PIUS X (1903-1914)

The Pius-Christian Museum and the Jewish Lapidarium are created in the Lateran Palace

PIUS XI (1922-1939)
PIUS XI

PIUS XI (1922-1939)

The Founding of the Missionary-Ethnological Museum and the new Vatican Pinacoteca

JOHN XXIII (1958-1963)
PAUL VI (1963-1978)
PAUL VI

JOHN XXIII (1958-1963)
PAUL VI (1963-1978)

The Lateran collections come to the Vatican Museums

JOHN PAUL II (1978-2005)
JOHN PAUL II

JOHN PAUL II (1978-2005)

From major restoration of the Sistine Chapel to the Jubilee of the Year 2000

BENEDICT XVI (2005-2013 end of pontificate)
BENEDICT XVI

BENEDICT XVI (2005-2013 end of pontificate)

Commitment to conservation and protection of the works of art, in the name of dialogue with the art world

FRANCIS (13 March 2013)
FRANCIS

FRANCIS (13 March 2013)

The Vatican Museums open their doors to Charity and to "popular art"

NICHOLAS V (1447-1455) and ALEXANDER VI (1492-1503)


"The Vatican, the Museum of Museums," not only houses the extensive collections of art, archaeology and ethno-anthropology gathered by the Popes over the centuries, but also contains some of the Apostolic Palace’s most extraordinary and artistically significant rooms.
Any history of the museums' collections should rightly begin with the history of the rooms that the Popes over the ages chose as places of residence or private prayer and reflection. The first ones, in chronological order, are the Niccoline Chapel and the Borgia Apartment.

In the first year of his papacy, Pope Nicholas V (Parentucelli), one of the greatest humanists of the time, called on Fra Angelico to decorate the private chapel of his apartments in the Apostolic Palace with a cycle of frescoes dedicated to St Stephen and St Lawrence. Fra Angelico, a renowned artist as well as a Dominican friar, depicted scenes from the saints' lives, drawn from the "Acts of the Apostles."
The decorations, richly detailed and full of meaningful allusions, make the Niccoline Chapel a perfect example of the link between religious and humanistic thought in fifteenth-century painting.


A masterful restoration of Fra Angelico’s works was carried out in 1995 and 1996.

Nicholas V's successor, Pope Alexander VI (Borgia) elected to live in the Apostolic Palace's most exclusive wing, and commissioned its decoration by Bernardino di Betto, better known as Pinturicchio. In 1494 the work was complete, a stunning cycle of frescoes decorating the various interconnecting rooms. The rooms were left empty following the Pope's death, and it was not until the end of the nineteenth century that the Borgia Apartment was open to the public.

Today most of Pope Alexander VI's rooms are used to display the Collection of Contemporary Art inaugurated personally by Paul VI in 1973.