This tour, which offers a glimpse into Papal Rome, will take a half day; if the Vatican Museum visit is limited to The Rafael rooms and the Sistine Chapel, and you eliminate a visit to Vatican Grotto in St Peter's Basilica. Otherwise, the complete itinerary requires a entire day.
Lungo Tevere, 50
Hours: Tuesday-Sunday 9:00 A.M.-6:30 P.M.; closed Monday, Christmas Day, New Year's day
Entrance fee charged
Tel.: 06 6819111
Internet site: www.beniculturali.it
How to get there: buses 23, 23D, 34, 40, 62, 280, Metro line A (Lepanto)
Castel Sant'Angelo was designed by the architect Demitriano and built between 123 and 129 A.D.; according to the wishes of Emperor Hadrian, to serve as his mausoleum. The 'Hadrianium' dominated the landscape, its massive hulk consisting of three overlapping cylindrical structures, surrounded by a circular fašade, topped with a bronze chariot featuring the Emperor dressed as the sun god. Inside, a spiral ramp, which still exists today, descended to the passageway which led to the grave, which housed his remains for 72 years.
With the addition of the Mura Aureliane (Aurelian wall) in 271 A.D., which fortified its strategic southern flank, the structure was converted from mausoleum to military fortress. It later came into Papal hands, after the Pope's return to Rome, from exile in Avignon, at which point battlements were added. The name Castel Sant'Angelo comes from the legend of Saint Gregorio Magno, who had a vision of an angel appearing in the fortress, and announcing the end of the Plague. In 1500 Rafaello di Montelupo created a statue of the angel which originally stood on the watchtower and is now on display in the Cortile d'Onore (court of honor).
Castel Sant'Angelo served as a jail for almost three centuries. It held such illustrious figures as: Giordano Bruno, Benvenuto Cellini, the Cagliostro and several patriots of the risorgimento movement. In 1901 while the structure was being converted into a museum, it underwent renovations which did away with medieval superstructures and restored the battlements.
NATIONAL MUSEUM OF CASTEL SANT'ANGELO
A walk through this structure allows the visitor an opportunity to 'discover' the historical events for which it is famous. Of particular interest are the Papal apartments from the renaissance era and Cagliostro's prison cell. Not to be missed is the Museo delle armi (arms museum), located inside the castle, said to be one of the largest in the world.
Situated on the hill of the same name, Vatican city became an independent state in 1929, through the Laterine Pact, between Italy and the Holy See, which designates the Pontif as its sovereign leader. The territory is made up of St Peter's Square and Basilica, while all other buildings in the Vatican, along with the Basilicas of Santa Maria Maggiore, San Giovanni Laterano, and San Paolo Fuori le Mura, command extraterritorial status.
ST. PETER'S SQUARE
This monumental plaza is the masterwork of Bernini, who designed and built it between 1656 and 1667. Elliptical in form, it is surrounded by four sets of 284 columns on 88 pillars, known as the Portico dorico.
This portico, with it's three regal walkways, contains140 statues alternating with coats of arms from Alexander VIII. In the center of the plaza rises an Egyptian obelisque, brought from Heliopolis to Rome by the emperor Caligula, and at its base are four bronze lions. On either side of the obelisque are two splendidly powerful fountains, by Maderna on the right and Fontana on the left. On the pavement, between the obelisque and the fountains, lies a round stone, on top of which, looking towards the portico, only one row of columns can be seen. At the end of the right colonnade lies the 16th century Apostolic Palace, with its bronze doors which form the entry to the Vatican Palace.
ST PETER'S BASILICA
This, the largest temple to Christianity was first built over the tomb of St. Peter by Constantine in 326. Pope Nicolas V, in 1452, commissioned B. Rosselino with a restoration of the original building, falling into ruins. However, after the Pope's death, the work was suspended. In 1506, the project was resumed with a design by Bramante, under Pope Julius II.
Others involved in the project were: Giuliano da Sangallo, Raphael, Peruzzi and A. da Sangallo, the younger. In 1546, Michelangelo gave it the form of a Greek Cross and began work on the magnificent cupola. At his death (1564) work was continued by and finished by: Vignola, Pizzo Logorio, Giacomo della Porta, and Domenico Fontana.
Later, under Pope Paul V, the layout was changed to a Latin Cross by the architect Carlo Maderno, who elongated the anterior apse and built the fašade. The church was consecrated in 1626 by Pope Urban VIII.
In front of the fašade is a three level stairway with colossal statues of Saints Peter and Paul on either side. There are nine loggias facing the Piazza. From the middle one, the Pope recites the angelus and gives solemn benedictions. The atrium, with its detailed stucco work, is made up of a series of five passageways. In the middle passage is a beautiful mosaic form Constantine's basilica called 'il mosaico della Navicella (small ship)' originally installed by Giotto, but later completely restored. At the end of the portico is a statue of Charlemagne (A. Cornacchini 18th Century) and Bernini's statue of Constantine (1670). A series of five doors lead into the basilica. The centre one is adorned with historical bronze panels by Filarete (1433-1445). The far left hand door is by Manz¨ and the far right one, the 'Holy Door'.
Along the middle apse, on the pavement, are signs indicating the size of major cathedrals of the world, in comparison with St. Peter's. Given its vast size, the best perspective of the entire building, is enjoyed, while standing in the middle, under the cupola. In this way, the four massive central pillars do not hinder your view of the entire church.
The Central Nave
The first three arcades are from the Maderno addition. A red porphyry disc in the floor indicates the spot where Charlemagne was crowned 'Holy Roman Emperor', by Pope Leo III, in 800 A.D.
Between the huge pillars supporting the entablature, are niches, which hold statues of the founders of various Religious orders. By the last column on the right hand side, sits a bronze statue of St. Peter, upon a marble throne; attributed to Arnolfo di Cambio (13th century). From here, you pass under the massive cupola by Michelangelo. Directly under the cupola is the Pope's altar, with its bronze canopy by Bernini (1633). The materials to build the canopy were taken from the Pantheon. In front of the altar is the confession chapel by Maderno.
The Right Nave
In the first chapel is Michelangelo's PietÓ, one of his early works (1499). In the third chapel, Know as the 'Sacrament', rests a gilded bronze ciborium by Bernini, inside an iron tabernacle by Borromini. A statue of Clement XIII , considered to be Canova's masterwork, stands in the right transept.
The Apse or Rostrum
Here sits Bernini's bronze 'Throne of St Peter', next to his monument to Pope Urban VIII.
The Left Nave
Around the corner is the entrance to the Sacristy and Treasury. In the first chapel is the baptismal font, with its porphyry cover, taken from and ancient sarcophagus.
Sacristy and Treasury
In front of the left transept stands the imposing sacristy, formed by the octagonal shaped Communal sacristy, the Canonical sacristy and the 'Capitolare' room. Commissioned by Pope Pius VI, it was built by Carlo Marchionni in 1776. Attached to the Basilica is the Treasury, with its treasures of Saints Peter and John the Baptist. The treasury contains precious religious relics, going back to ancient times; as well as gifts from heads of state and famous people, given during audiences with the Pope. The majestic funerary monument to Pope Sixtus IV, by Antonio Pollaiolo (1471-1484), is located in the Treasury room.
THE SACRED VATICAN GROTTO
Hours: 7:00 A.M.-6:00 P.M. (winter 5:30 P.M.)
A written request is necessary to reserve a tour of the grotto. This can be done at the 'Uficio Scavi della Rev.da Fabbrica di San Pietro' office, located through the Arco delle Campane (far right hand side of the basilica).
Its hours are: Monday-Friday 9:00 A.M.-12:00 P.M. and 2:00 P.M.-5:00 P.M..
The Monumental Vatican grotto complex, located directly underneath the Basilica, embodies over two thousand years of Christian as well as civil history. I was excavated by Renaissance builders, between the floor of the actual Basilica and that of Constantinian construction. Among the priceless treasures found here are: paleochristian sarcophagi, remains of the 4th century church, works by Melozzo da Forli, the Cavallini school, Pollaiolo, Arnolfo di Cambio, mosaic fragments-one of which is attributed to Giotto, the tombs of various Popes and also of Cristina of Sweden, from the 17th century.
Viale Vaticano, 100
Hours: Monday-Saturday 8:45 A.M.-3:45 P.M.; closed Sunday, Nov. 1st, December 25th and 26th, January 1st and 6th
Entrance fee charged (free entrance on the last Sunday of every month)
Tel.: 06 69883860
Internet site: www.vatican.va
How to get there: busses 32, 49, 51, 492, 982, 991-Metro line A (Cipro-Musei Vaticani)
As part of the massive Vatican complex, this museum is made up of: Pinacoteca (The Portrait Gallery), The Chiaramonte Museum, The Gregorian Egyptian Museum, The Gregorian Etruscan Museum, The Gregorian Profane Museum, The Braccio Nuovo (New Branch), The Pius clement Museum, The Raphael Rooms and The Sistine Chapel.
Portrait Gallery (Pinacoteca)
Outstanding in the collection are: The Stefaneschi triptych by Giotto, representing Christ on a throne surrounded by angels, with a scene from St. Peter's crucifixion; also15th century paintings by Beato Angelico, Benozzo Gozzoli, Masolino, Perugino and Pinturicchio. The Raphael room holds such treasures from his early works as: 'The Crowning of Mary' and the 'Transfiguration'.
Not to be missed: Leonardo's 'Saint Jerome', Giovanni Bellini's 'PietÓ', Caravaggio's 'Burial of St. Peter'; also works by Guercino, Guido Reni and Poussin.
In a corridor designed by Bramante, between the Vatican Palace and the Villa of Pope Innocent VIII, this museum houses Imperial era sculptures and a relief from the first century A.D. representing the Three Graces.
The Gregorian Egyptian Museum
Designed by the Egyptologist I. Ungarelli, this museum preserves artefacts and decorative pieces from several different eras, as well as sarcophagi, mummies and funerary decorations. Of note, a Canopic sculpture from the Villa Adriana at Tivoli.
The Gregorian Etruscan Museum
This museum, founded by Gregory VI, houses artefacts from Southern Etruria, and in particular, from the necropolis of Sorbo. Displayed here, are examples of extraordinary workmanship in gold, a chariot and remnants of a bronze throne. Of note: the bilingual funerary monument (Latin and Gallic) found in Todi, dating to the 2nd century B.C.
The Gregorian Profane Museum
This museum houses important original Greek works, among them: three fragments from the Parthenon in Athens, and the head of Athena from 460 B.C. On display in the Roman section is the 'Ara dei Vicomagistri' from the 1st century A.D.; and two relief sculptures, believed to be from the chancellery, depicting Vespasian's arrival and Domitian's departure from Rome. One area is reserved for copies. Outstanding among them are a group of bronzes of Athena and Marsia, copied from the originals by the Greek Mirone. There is also a Hellenistic style mosaic, inspired by Pliny, depicting the leftovers from a luncheon scene.
The Braccio Nuovo
This museum houses ancient sculpture. Don't miss the 'Doriforo' from the original bronze by Polycletus, also the Wounded Amazon, from the 5th century B.C. original, by Kresilas; outstanding of all is the 'Augusto di Prima Porta' from the 'Livia a Prima Porta' Villa.
The Pius Clement Museum
This museum, located in various rooms of the Innocent VIII Palazzo, displays various examples of ancient sculpture such as: 'Apollo del Belvedere', the 'Lacoonte' group, taken from the Domus Aurea; the torso of Belvedere, the Venus of Cnido, Roman copies of originals by Prassitele. Don't miss the 4th century porphyry sarcophagi, of Elena, the mother, and the daughter of Constantine.
The Raphael Rooms
These rooms were built during the reign of Pope Nicholas V, and successively used by Pope Julius II, who commissioned Raphael and his school, for the frescoes. Access to these rooms is through the Candelabra, Tapestry, and Map Galleries.
The apartment is made up of the following 4 attached rooms: Constantine, Heliodor, Segnatura(records), Incendio di Borgo (the city fire).
The Segnatura room was painted entirely by Raphael between 1508 and 1512. They are made-up of the following scenes: The dispute over the sacrament, The Athenian School, Parnassus, Trebonian handing over the 'Pandette'(law books) to Justinian, and Gregory IX approving the 'Decretali' (Papal decrees).
The Sistine Chapel
By commission of Pope Sixtus IV (1477-1480), the chapel is rectangular in shape with a vaulted ceiling, painted in three distinct stages. The first faze, with contributions by: Perugino, Botticelli, Roselli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and Luca Signorelli; depicts stories from the lives of Moses and Christ. The second faze was carried out by Michelangelo, concentrating on the history of man before Christ (notable: the creation of man, Adam and eve being banned from paradise and the universal flood). The last faze, again by Michelangelo, has to with the the 'Last Judgment', where the people appear on a background of intense blue, with Christ the judge in the center.
Museo Pio Cristiano
Viale Vaticano, 100
Hours: Monday-Friday 8:45 A.M. -3:00 P.M., Saturday: 8.45 A.M. - 13.45 P.M.; Closed Sunday and religious holidays
Entrance fee charged; free entrance the last Sunday of every month
Tel.: 06 69883860
Internet site: www.vatican.va
How to get there: bus 32,49,51,81,492, 982, 991 - Metropolitan Line A
The museum was founded by Pope Pius IX in 1854, and was originally housed in the Palazzo Lateranense. On display are Paleochristian artifacts from the Catacombs. The collection of sarcophagi and funerary stones is outstanding. Not to be missed, is the statue of the 'Buon Pastore', which became an early Christian, symbolic icon.