Terrace of the Niche

The hemicycle of the Gregorian Egyptian Museum (Room V) leads the visitor to the Terrace of the Niche, which dominates the northern side of the Courtyard of the Pinecone. The terrace was built in 1562 during the papacy of Pius IV by Pirro Ligorio, who designed it on the model of the apses of the Roman Forum. Ligorio substituted the Niche with the low and elegant Bramantesque exedra which, decorated with niches and pilasters, did not exceed the height of the façade.
This space houses three Dynasty XXVI sarcophagi from Memphis, and eight statues of the lioness goddess Sekhmet, from the Temple Precinct of Mut at Karnak. Another four statues of the goddess – among which of one only the head remains – are positioned along the itinerary of the hemicycle.
The colossal bronze pinecone dominating the courtyard of this terrace, originally a Roman fountain from the second century A.D., was discovered in Campo Marzio and subsequently positioned in the four-porticoed atrium of the old St. Peter Basilica. In 1608 it was transported to the courtyard to which it lends its name.
At the two sides of the fountain under the pinecone, in the courtyard below, there are the two reclining lions of the pharaoh Nectanebo II.