In the beginning, there were two types of museums, private and public. The private museums were just collections of antiquities and artifacts by a random personality and were not allowed to general public. It was kind of private property. One famous example is Princess Eniggaldi’s museums, which is considered by historians as the world’s first private museum existed around 530 BC.
But it was not open for general public. Then, when did the museums like today commenced?
The museums available for public emerged much later than Ennigaldi’s. It was in 1471 when the Pope Sixtus II donated some ancient artifacts to the public of Rome. It was the first public museum named as Capitoline Museums.
Right after that, the Vatican museums were established in 1506 by Pope Julius II. Here is a quick look about its establishment, history and its situation in modern times.
Basically, a single sculpture of Laocoon and his sons (shown below) was the reason of establishment of the museums. It was discovered on 14th January 1506 in a vineyard. After hearing the news, Pope Julius II sent Michelangelo and Giuliano da Sangallo to examine it and after the authenticity was proved, pope purchased the sculpture and put it for the public display. Thus, the history of Vatican museums began.
Laocoon is a mythical figure from Greek mythology who tried to expose the trick of the Trojan horse by striking a spear on it. Unpleased by his deed, Poseidon, the god of sea and earthquake sent some snakes to kill him and his both sons. The sculpture depicts the moment when snakes attacked on Laocoon and two his sons. The era and maker of this sculpture varies among the historians. There is a belief that Michelangelo forged it. But nothing’s for sure.
In later time, the successor popes founded new museums in the premise. Pope Clement XIV founded the Pio-Clementino Museum in 1771 and Benedict XIV inaugurated Museum Christianum in 1854. Due to this establishments and advances today, Vatican City owns nearly 13 building of museums having 54 galleries. The total length of the museums is over 9 miles! The most popular galleries are the Sistine chapel and Raphael Rooms (or Stanza della Segnatura).
Currently, the number of artifacts in Vatican Museums is counted in hundreds of thousands.
Important artifacts, paintings, art-pieces and sculptures
The Vatican museums are one of the oldest museums and reckoned as one of the biggest collections in the world. They say if you give just one minute to each of the piece displayed in Vatican museum it would take you some 4 years to complete one round. By this you can imagine the numbers of the art-pieces are stored in those beautiful museum which themselves are monumental art-pieces due to their grander artistic constructions. Even the stairs called Bramante Staircase of the museums are piece of art!
These monumental buildings consists some momentous art-works in history, literally. Art-pieces like Mona Lisa are not insured because they are simply considered priceless. Fair enough!
Out of the hundreds of thousands art-pieces there are some remarkable names which are stored in Vatican museums. Entombment by Caravaggio, St Jerome in wilderness by Leonardo da Vinci, Madonna and Child with Saints and Filippo Lippi’s Marsuppini Coronation are the major ones. Works of other notable artists like Giotto, Fra Angelico, Nicholas Poussin and Titian are also there to see.
Other major rooms are called Raphael rooms. They were painted by the renaissance artist Raphael. There are total four rooms which have around 28 different paintings. The notables are the The school of Athens, Delivereance of Saint Peter, Disputa and Fire in the Borgo. Though, all the paintings are equally important in historical manner.
In the tour of Vatican museum, you visit the (image below) at last, keeping it last as a reward for the long excursion. It is this immense work of Michelangelo who painted Sistine chapel’s ceiling for 4 years and filled it with 9 events from the book of genesis. That is one majestic work, which could be entitled as most important gallery of the museums.
Gallery of Maps (image below), Statues and busts, Cappella Nicolina, Borgia Apartments and greek-roman antiquities are very splendid points of attraction in the museums.
Museums are like the banks of ancient artifacts. Thus, their importance is unmeasured. Where one art-piece is considered as priceless, you can imagine the weightage of such place in human history. You can’t count the loss if museums like this are unfortunately destroyed in an earth-quake or something. In my view, they should have more security than the president of America.
Today, more than 4 million people visit Vatican museums every year. The record figure of 5 million people was broke in 2011.