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The Vatican Museums

It wasn’t not my first visit to this Vatican must-visit spot but why did feel like it was? Except for the Sistine Chapel and the revolving golden ball—the Sphere Within Sphere by Arnaldo Pomodoro in the Cortile della Pigna—everything else in this expansive art house was a blur. In fact, so was everything else about Rome. I sped through the important sites of this Italian capital city in a little over 24 hours with little sleep when I first set foot in this place after all.

This one I remembered clearly, Arnaldo Pomodoro’s Sphere Within Sphere in the Cortile della Pigna

I looked forward to this second visit, this time with good friend Tenny A. and his family. Our pace was slow as our tour guide navigated us through one sala to another. It was educational (absorbing all the information was a challenge, retaining it even more so) and certainly more interesting with the stories behind the artwork’s conception recounted.

Took the metro to Cipro, the nearest stop to the Vatican Museum.
Walking to the Vatican museum with good friend & host, Tenny A, parents & family behind -- caucasian photobombers no included. 

The museums of the Vatican was established in the early 16th century by Pope Julius II when the first acquired piece was put on public display—the Laocoon and his Sons, a sculpture discovered in a vineyard near the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in 1506. Today, the museums showcase the Roman Catholic Church’s immense collection built up throughout the centuries.

Laocoon & his Sons, the piece that started the Vatican Museums

The most renowned classical sculptures and most important masterpieces of Renaissance art in the world are in the museums’ halls of this vast edifice—paintings by Caravaggio including the majestic “entombment”, Leonardo de Vinci’s works including the portrait of “St. Jerome in the Wilderness,” Raphael’s “Transfiguration” and his frescoes, impressive Greek and Roman sculptures, impressive mosaics, well-preserved tapestries, the world’s largest pictorial geographical study—the topographical maps of Italy, modern religious art, and many more.

Apollo of the Belvedere

Light controlled Gallery of Tapestries

Galleria delle carte geografiche contains a series of painted topographical maps of Italy

A complete journey will take you through the 54 galleries, or salas, of the museums created or named after a pope (how about a lifetime or two to go through and appreciate the collections?). The guide showed us, the tourists, the museum highlights we can appreciate (and probably wants to see).

Sala di Costantino (Hall of Constantine) is one of the four Stanze di Raffaello ( Raphael Rooms)

The Belvedere Torso

Ceiling art in the Hall of Muses

A statue of Cybele, Phygian goddess of fertility

All tours end at the most notable of the salas—the Sistine Chapel, the ceiling of which was decorated by Michaelangelo.

Inside the Sistine Chapel (source)

Among the impressive artworks wrapping the chapel, the most popular fresco would be the Creation of Adam, the fourth panel in the Genesis series. This and the Last Supper are said to be the most replicated religious paintings of all times.

The creation of Adam, the fourth panel in the Genesis series in the Sistine Chapel's ceiling (source)

Strictly no photography in this sala and if you must speak, whisper. With no chance for our guide to discuss history within the premises, the Sistine Chapel lecture (very student excursion scene on the stairs) took place early in the tour at the Cortile della Pigna. Aside from the Genesis, she reminded us to check out the wall behind the altar of the chapel where The Last Judgment, also by Michaelangelo, is painted on. Beautiful the painting may be, it also tells a very interesting story as to how different people react to naked figures in art.

The Last Judgment by Michaelangelo. Interesting history on this artwork. (source)

With the growing number of tourists visiting the Vatican Museums each year (said to be about 6 million in 2012), getting a guided tour will be wise. It allows you to skip the long queue for tickets at the gate and, most importantly, it will also turn the spotlight on pieces you could miss in the vast ocean of art.

I had more fun second time around. Now moving on to the next stop—St. Peter’s Basilica for my first visit. It was closed when I visited the previous visit.

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Publsihed in the SunStar Davao newspaper on April 10, 2014.