Musei di Antichità Classiche

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View into the Cortile Ottagono of the Museo Pio-Clementino

The Musei di Antichità Classiche ( Museum of Classical Antiquity or Collections of Antiquities ) denote a sub- collection of the Vatican Museums . The Museo Pio-Clementino and the Museo Chiaramonti are home to one of the most important Greco-Roman collections of antiquities in the world, in which many world-class works are kept. The inventory includes in particular sculptures and mosaics. There is also a large collection of Etruscan art, the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco, a museum of ancient Egyptian art in the Museo Gregoriano Egizio and a collection of early Christian art in the Museo Pio Cristiano .


View into the Sala degli Animali of the Museo Pio-Clementino (2008)

Julius II is considered to be the founder of the Vatican's collection of antiquities, who owned a private collection of antiquities that was accessible to selected visitors. He had the Cortile delle Statue annex built on the Palazzetto built by Innocent VIII around 1487 . For this he had some of the most famous ancient sculptures of his time acquired between 1506 and 1513. These included the Laocoon group , Apollo Belvedere , Herakles with Telephos , Heracles and Antaios , Venus Felix and, as a fountain ensemble, personifications of the Nile , the Tiber and a statue of the "Cleopatra" Ariadne. Leo X. , Clemens VII. And Paul III. expanded the collection to include important pieces by 1549, such as the torso of the Belvedere , the Venus Knidia , a Tigris fountain, the so-called "Zitella", a Hermes Antinous and 13 marble theater masks. These were attached to the walls in 1525. In 1534 the office of Commissario delle Antichità , that is, a supervisor of the antiquities in the Papal States, was created. The first holder of the position was Latino Giovenale Manetti . Between 1550 and 1565, Julius III. and Pius IV. Other acquisitions that were also listed elsewhere, for example in the Casino Pius IV., in the Vatican.

View into the Sala Rotonda of the Museo Pio-Clementino

The first phase of the collection of antiquities came to an end with the election of Pius V as Pope in 1566. Originally he wanted to give away 146 of the ancient statues and set them up outside the Vatican, but in the end only about 30 statues were given to the Conservator's Palace and as gifts to the Medici and D'Este families . Pius V despised this idola profano (secular idols). The Cortile delle Statue and the Pius IV Casino were not changed. Even after the death of Pius V, the collection was neither reopened nor expanded. It lasted until 1703 when Clemens XI. brought life back to the collection. He also founded the Museo Ecclesiastico , which was directed by Francesco Bianchini , but only lasted until 1716. Clemens XII devoted himself even more . the antiquities. After 1728 he founded the Galleria Clementina affiliated to the Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana , in which around 200 Greek vases from the Gualterio collection were shown. In 1738, the collection was significantly expanded again with the purchase of the coin collection of Cardinal Alessandro Albani and joined the Medagliere Vaticano . In 1757 Benedict XIV founded his own museum for early Christian art, the Museo Sacro . It was also outsourced in 1767 under Clemens XIII. the Museo Gregoriano Profano as a meeting point for secular ancient art.

So-called sarcophagus of Helen made of porphyry in the Sala a croce greca of the Museo Pio-Clementino

In 1771, the Museo Pio-Clementino was founded by Clement XIV . This was the decisive step in creating a public museum from the collection that was previously only partially accessible. The center of the collection remained the Cortile delle Statue , which, like several of the surrounding rooms, was converted for the collection. As the first Pope, Clemens' successor Pius VI. Build rooms specifically for the museum presentation of the antiquities. Often antiques, such as larger mosaics, were integrated into the floors and rooms. The new rooms became the focal point of the collection as a new entrance was also created and the tour route operated. Pius Giovanni Battista Visconti , who with his son Ennio Quirino Visconti also compiled the first catalog of the collection, assisted in the planning . Giovanni Battista Visconti's predecessor as Commissario delle Antichità , Johann Joachim Winckelmann , had a decisive influence on the reorganization of the collection through his writings.

The conquest of Italy by the French was devastating for the collection. In the Tolentino Treaty , the Vatican had to undertake to deliver numerous works of art to Paris . The new Pope Pius VII tried to close the gaps with new purchases. In addition, the first export regulations for ancient works of art in the world were issued in 1802 and again in 1820. The then Commissario delle Antichità Carlo Fea drafted this decree together with the sculptor Antonio Canova . It was also thanks to Canova's efforts that in 1815 most of the antiquities brought to France were able to return to Rome. Between 1802 and 1808 the collection grew rapidly through acquisitions. In 1806 the magazine-like Galleria Chiaramonti was founded in the Bramante corridor , which quickly grew to around 1,000 mostly smaller-format marble sculptures. At the back of the corridor is the Galleria Lapidaria , which contains the epigraphic collection organized and cataloged by Luigi Gaetano Marini .

In 1822 Canova and the Galleria detta Braccio Nuovo built a connecting structure between the two wings of the palazzetto. Selected works from the Galleria Chiaramonti came there , including a personification of the Nile , two gilded bronze figures in the shape of a peacock and later, as a new addition, Augustus von Prima Porta .

Athena Marsyas group in the Museo Gregoriano Profano

Under Gregory XVI. Two more museums were founded from the holdings of the Antiquities Collection, which today exist as independent collections of the Vatican Museums. In 1837 the Museo Gregoriano Etrusco was founded, which was supposed to take up finds from southern Etruria , mainly Etruscan works of art and Greek vases . Two years later the Museo Gregoriano Egizio was founded for finds from ancient Egypt and Egyptian Roman art.

In 1844 the Museo Gregoriano Profano was founded in the Lateran Palace , which was supposed to accommodate the many finds pouring into the Vatican, as the old collections no longer had space for all the new acquisitions. The later notable additions included Mars from Todi , the finds from the Tomba Regolini-Galassi in Cerveteri and Augustus from Prima Porta . With the end of the papal state and the establishment of the Italian national state in 1870, the influx of new pieces ended, as no more excavation finds came to the Vatican.

It took 100 years before there was another change worth mentioning. In 1970 the holdings from the Lateran Palace were transferred to the Museo Paolino in the Vatican. The Museo Gregoriano Profano and the Museo Pio Cristiano can now be found here, along with other transferred collections. Since 1956 attempts have been made to gradually restore the original collection character. A separate room was set up for new finds on Vatican properties. With the Antiquarium in Castel Gandolfo , which opened in 1989 and shows finds from Domitian's villa there, the museum has a branch outside Rome. Since 1983 pieces from the Vatican have been shown again and again in exhibitions abroad.


  • Wolfgang Helbig : Guide through the public collections of classical antiquities in Rome. 4., completely reworked. Edition. Vol. 1: The papal collections in the Vatican and Lateran. Wasmuth, Tübingen 1963.
  • Jens Köhler: Rome. IV. Museums. C. Vatican Museums. In: The New Pauly (DNP). Volume 15/2, Metzler, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-476-01488-6 , Sp. 931-936.
  • Marco Bussagli, Guido Cornini, Enrica Crispino, Gloria Fossi, Claudio Pescio: Vatican Museums. Sillabe, Vatican City 2011, ISBN 978-88-8271-089-7 , pp. 10-15; 26-35; 38-51; 66; 146-153.
  • Susanna Bertoldi: The Vatican Museums. History - works of art - collections. Sillabe, Vatican City 2011, ISBN 978-88-8271-209-9 , pp. 11-95; 225-227.

Web links

Commons : Greek Art in the Vatican  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files
Commons : Roman Art in the Vatican  - Collection of Images, Videos and Audio Files