It’s not often you hear that an art collection occupies nearly 5% of the territory of a country. If you want to see the everything on display at the Vatican Museums, get ready for a 4.5 mile trek! This is how long it would take to walk through all of the 54 galleries spread throughout hundreds of rooms. While it’s extremely hard to pick from the thousands of works on display, these five are among the most representative of the collections.
1. School of Athens
The term Renaissance literally means “rebirth” and refers to the period of European civilization that produced a revival in art,learning and literature and. This glorious fresco painted by Raphael sits on the wall of what used to be the pope’s main office. A depiction of philosophy, the painting represents all the greatest mathematicians, philosophers and scientists congregated and sharing ideas. But Raphael also paid tribute to his fellow artists of the Italian Renaissance by painting their facial features on the philosophers. He was only 27 years old when he painted the fresco – not bad!
2. Belvedere Torso
When you walk into the Hall of Muses, notice this broken, limbless piece of marble that sits in the center of the room. The pope loved the piece so much that he ordered Michelangelo to finish it and add the “missing” parts. The great artist respectfully declined, claiming that that the man who sculpted it knew the human body better than the nature itself. Later, when you walk into the Sistine Chapel, look at Michelangelo’s muscly Jesus Christ and see how the Belvedere Torso inspired his work.
3. Sphere Within Sphere
The inner ball represents the Earth and outer ball represents Christianity. The design of the internal layers which look like the gears or cogwheels of a complex machine symbolizes the fragility and complexity of the world.” -Kaushik, Amusing Planet
Sitting in one of the largest courtyards within the Vatican Museums is this modern sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro. Most common theories about the sculpture’s meaning state that the statue represents a new idea being born from inside our brain, or perhaps simply the Vatican State located inside the city of Rome. The best thing about this piece is that you can walk up to is, give it a push and see it spin around its axis!
4. The Resurrection Tapestry
Like a giant comic book, the long Hall of Tapestries is decorated with a series of scenes that portray the life of Jesus. You will recognize many events depicted, from the birth of Jesus all the way to the his resurrection. Stop for a moment in front of the resurrection scene and look Jesus in the eyes. Now, walk to left and the right and notice that wherever you go, he keeps his eyes on you. This stunning optical illusion is just one incredible feature of this collection.
5. Laocoon & Sons
Legend has it, this sculpture was discovered from the ruins of the Roman Forum by Michelangelo himself! Representing the store of the old priest Laocoon and his two sons, large serpents sent from the sea strangle the figures. When the Vatican museums celebrated their 500th birthday in 2006, it was the day in history that Michelangelo brought this sculpture to the pope.
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