Excursions from the Vatican Museums
Two of the museums in the complex are considered wonders from the Renaissance period: the Sistine Chapel with its vault painted by Michelangelo, and Raphael’s Rooms. Pope Julius II was the first pope to collect, gather and display to the public sculptures and artefact from Ancient History but it was under Pope Clement XII that the two museums opened.
Pope Julius II chose the painter Raphael to decorate the four rooms of his apartment. Raphael started to paint in 1508 but the decorations were finished 16 years later by his students following the artist’s death in 1520. The four rooms are the following: the Room of Constantine, the Room of Heliodorus, the Room of the Segnatura, and the Room of the Fire in the Borgo. The first room was designed for receptions and official ceremony, and was decorated by Raphael’s students following his original drawings. The room of Heliodorus was used for the Pope’s private audiences while the room of the Segnatura was used as a library and private offices. This latter room contains Raphael’s most famous frescoes and it is considered a masterpiece marking the beginning of the High Renaissance. The room of the Fire in Borgo was used by Pope Leo X as a dining room. For this last room, Raphael painted the walls while the ceilings were painted by his teacher Pietro Vannuci.
The last museum to be opened was the Historical Museum in 1973. Today, the Vatican Museums welcome four million visitors each year.