The collection is one of the most important and largest in the world and includes the areas of oriental antiquities ( ancient Egypt and Assyria ), classical antiquity (Greco-Roman art), Etruscan - Italic antiquities (today's Italy before Roman times), early Christian and medieval art (3rd . – 14th century), art from the Renaissance (15th century) to the 19th century , contemporary art and an ethnographic collection. Probably the best-known part that can be visited as part of a museum visit is the Sistine Chapel .
The museums are several collections that have arisen over time and are located in different parts of the Vatican Palace:
Papal palace and secular buildings
Building history and topography
Pope Nicholas V , the great humanist among the popes, began building what is now the Papal Palace around 1450 . When he died in 1455, only the Appartamento Borgia and the stamps were finished. Sixtus IV had the papal house chapel, the Sistine Chapel , built between 1471 and 1484 . The garden house of the Belvedere was built between 1484 and 1492 under Innocent VIII . Alexander VI. expanded the complex to include the so-called Borgia tower , which served as a weir system.
The actual founder of the Vatican's Vatican collections is considered to be Pope Julius II , who already had a private collection of antiquities that was only accessible to selected visitors. Julius II had the Cortile delle Statue attached to the palace built around 1487 . Between 1506 and 1513 he acquired the most famous ancient sculptures of his time for the Belvedere . The papal architect Donato Bramante connected the Belvedere between 1503 and 1513 with the huge rectangular courtyard called the Cortile del Belvedere . The Papal Palace was expanded from 1508–1519 by the younger Antonio da Sangallo and extends around the central Cortile San Damaso , which was designed by Bramante until 1519. The construction of the Damasushof now connected in the east to the earlier components built under Sixtus IV . Magnificent festivities were celebrated in the courtyard of the Belvedere before it was divided into two parts by Domenico Fontana by a transverse corridor from 1585 to 1590 : the higher Cortile della Pigna and the Cortile del Belvedere, which was redesigned and expanded under Pius IV . From 1817 to 1822, a second transverse corridor, the Braccio Nuovo, was built in what is now the Vatican Library. This created a third small courtyard, the Cortile della Biblioteca .
The entire Papal Palace today comprises a building complex with around 1,400 rooms and 55,000 m² of floor space and has around twenty courtyards. Only a small part of this complex is reserved for the Pope and his court, the majority is open to visitors. The Vatican Gardens remain difficult to access, but their atmosphere can be perceived through the windows of the museums. The official entrance from St. Peter's Square leads through the Scala Regia . This also connects St. Peter's Basilica with the Sistine Chapel and the rooms. This staircase was built by Antonio da Sangallo and renovated by Gian Lorenzo Bernini from 1663 to 1666 . At the foot of the stairs there is an equestrian statue of Constantine the Great by Bernini. Today's access to the museum is from the north side, from Viale Vaticano through a newly built entrance area for the Holy Year 2000.
The Cappella Sistina was built between 1475 and 1483 under Sixtus IV, named after him and inaugurated on August 15, 1483. The rectangular structure, covered by a flat barrel vault, is 40.90 meters long, 13.40 meters wide and 20.70 meters high. The proportions of the chapel correspond to the Solomonic Temple of the Bible; its length is roughly twice the height and three times the width. At the start of construction by the Florentine architect Giovannino de Dolci, the walls with the lunettes had 14 windows, which were bricked up in the 16th century. A marble barrier divides the chapel into two areas, leaving a lot of space for the clergy to celebrate . The murals show scenes from the lives of Jesus and Moses and were created by famous Renaissance painters : Sandro Botticelli , Pietro Perugino , Domenico Ghirlandaio , Cosimo Rosselli , Biagio d'Antonio and Luca Signorelli . The world-famous ceiling paintings commissioned under Julius II and executed by Michelangelo follow a program-like iconography and contain depictions of important episodes of the Old and New Testaments. They were unveiled on November 1st, 1512 and show scenes from Genesis with 115 larger-than-life characters on a total of 520 m² . Especially the excerpt " The Creation of Adam " is a world-famous and often reproduced work. It shows how God the Father brings Adam to life with an outstretched finger . Pope Clement VII wanted Michelangelo's Last Judgment on the altar wall and therefore sacrificed Perugino's existing works. The faded color power of the frescoes was thoroughly restored towards the end of the 20th century in an extensive cleaning process.
Pope Nicholas V had this early part of the Papal Palace built between 1449 and 1455, which was named after his successor Alexander VI. (Bourgeois Rodrigo Borgia) was named. The Cappella Niccolina built into the wing is dedicated to the archdeacons Stephanus and Laurentius and was painted by Fra Angelico with the help of Benozzo Gozzoli from 1447 to 1449.
Alexander VI. extended the apartment to include the Torre Borgia. The artistic design came from Pinturicchio , who furnished six halls with legends and stories from the Old and New Testaments between 1492 and 1495, one of the halls, the Sala dei Pontifici , having to be redesigned after a collapse at the beginning of the 16th century. The main halls are named after the motifs of their frescoes: Sala delle Sibille , Sala del Credo , Sala della Madonna and Sala dei Santi . The Sala dei Pontifici is the work of Raphael's students, Giovanni da Udine and Pierin del Vaga. The decoration dates from the 16th century. Leo XIII. had the rooms restored by Ludwig Seitz and opened them to the public. A staircase leads from the Sala delle Sibille to the Raphael rooms above . Part of the modern art collection is now housed in the Appartamento Borgia.
The frescoes of the Stanzen (Italian stanza "room") were commissioned by Julius II from 1508 for his private apartments on the second floor of the Vatican Palace. They were carried out by Raffael Santi and his collaborators under the patronage of Pope Leo X (1513-1521) until 1524. Today the four rooms are named after their main themes. The largest room intended for official receptions, the Sala di Costantino , depicts the life of Emperor Constantine (306–337) in four scenes. The legendary scene from the battle at the Milvian Bridge against Constantine's co-emperor Maxentius symbolizes the beginning of Christianity as the state religion . The Stanza di Eliodoro also describes in four scenes the expulsion of Heliodorus from the Temple of Jerusalem , the enforcement of Attila's repentance before Rome, the miracle of Bolsena and the liberation of Peter from prison . The Stanza della Segnatura shows Raphael's masterpieces The School of Athens , an allegory of Parnassus , the triumph of the Eucharist . In the Stanza dell'Incendio di Borgo the fire of Borgo , a victory of Leo IV over the Saracens , the coronation of Charlemagne and the justification of Leo III. shown.
The gloss of the finished frescoes did not last long. As early as 1527, at the Sacco di Roma , they were badly damaged by Protestant mercenaries: faces that the mercenaries took for popes were scratched out, and inscriptions were scratched into the painted walls. These details came to light during the last restoration in 1999–2001, which not only removed dirt and repainting, but also damage caused by old restorations. Soon after the Sacco di Roma the stamps had been poorly restored by painters who worked for the popes (including Sebastiano del Piombo ). Because parts of the stucco began to detach from the walls, a major restoration was carried out in 1754, and more in the years from 1856 and 1937. The restoration of 1937 caused damage to the paint layers through the use of unsuitable substances such as hydrochloric acid. The current restoration under the art-historical direction of Arnold Nesselrath has also changed the attribution of individual parts of the picture.
In 1515, Raphael had completed the construction of the loggias that Bramante had begun and which faced the Papal Palace to the east . In 1516, the furnishing of the second floor of these loggias, which connected the papal apartment, began. The loggias were originally intended for the exclusive use of the Pope, who set up his private collection of antiquities here. The decoration was done by Giovanni da Udine, who specialized in the art of grotesques based on ancient models. The loggias were completed in 1519, and the effect of this new “profane” style had a lasting impact on the entire 16th century. The copies of antique gems and reliefs embedded in the decor attracted attention and imitation.
Raphael's most important collaborators in the painting were Giovanni Francesco Penni , Giulio Romano , Perino del Vaga and Polidoro da Caravaggio . The different vaults , made up of thirteen bays , were given imaginative architectural paintings, and a cycle of 52 scenes told the biblical story in chronological order. Four scenes in each vault are dedicated to a central biblical personality. The overall compositions, calculated from below, are content with a few figures, but win over the viewer through expressive movement.
With the election of Nicholas V as Pope in 1447, the history of the collection of today's Vatican Library began. In an inventory carried out under his predecessor Eugene IV , 350 works were registered in different languages, most of them in Latin. These 350 works and Nicholas V's own collection formed the basis of today's Vatican library. Pope Sixtus IV appointed Bartolomeo Platina , the Pope's historian, as the first librarian. In 1587 Pope Sixtus V commissioned the architect Domenico Fontana to build a new building for the Vatican Library. In 1855, the collection of printed works was expanded on a large scale with the acquisition of Leopoldo Cicognara's collection . Furthermore, the libraries of the Princes Borghese (1891), the Barberini and the Fondo Borgiani from the library of the Propaganda Congregation with printed works and manuscripts (1902) were added. The following acquisitions include the Biblioteca Chigiana (1923), the archive of the chapter of St. Peter (1940), which, in addition to manuscripts, primarily contains archival materials and forms the basis of an archivi section . In addition to the newer holdings, the library now has over 150,000 manuscript volumes, including 75,000 literatures, over 8300 incunabula , over 70,000 maps and engravings as well as 200,000 autographs , and more than 300,000 coins and medals. In total, the Vatican Library today has more than two million books and manuscripts.
The large library hall, the Salone Sistino , was built by Domenico Fontana from 1587 to 1589. The hall is 70 meters long and 15 meters wide and 9 meters high. The vault and the walls of the two-aisled auditorium are decorated with arabesques and frescoes. The paintings depict the book's triumphant advance through the centuries and the blessed reign of the Church. Valuable old manuscripts, drawings and coins can be seen in showcases on the walls and the seven pillars.
At the end of the long corridor is the Museo Profano with antique bronzes, a collection of medals, inscriptions and mosaics, followed by the Galleria Clementina and the Sala Allessandria , a showcase collection with valuable cameos, reliefs and bronze sculptures. The building complex also includes the Sala Paolina , the Biblioteca di Sisto V. , the Vestibolo della Biblioteca , the large Salone Sistino and the Galleria di Urban VIII.
The Museo Sacro , founded by Benedict XIV in 1756 to store the catacombs , now contains the treasures of the Sancta Sanctorum with enamel work and Byzantine treasures. The departments are divided into the Sala delle antichità Christiane (Christian antiquities) and the Sala dei Papiri (papyrus collection). To the right of this is the series of frescoes from the Aldobrandini wedding .
The Galleria delle carte geografiche (Gallery of Maps) is an impressive 120-meter-long grand hall illuminated through windows. It is equipped on both sides with large topographical frescoes of Italian cities, which were designed by Antonio Panti 1580–1583 and painted by Giorgio Vasari and Federico Zuccai. The decoration of the ceiling paintings and ornaments were done by painters and plasterers who worked here under the direction of Girolamo Muziano until 1590. A number of herms with valuable antique busts and figurines are remarkable . You can also see Flemish tapestries from the 15th and 16th centuries in this section . In the two small rooms next to it there is an extensive collection of medieval ceramics.
On behalf of Pope Pius XI. Built Luca Beltrami 1932 in the Vatican Gardens a new building for the Vatican Pinakothek in Lombard Renaissance style with 16 rooms. On the south side of the building is the Giardino Quadrato , a rectangular park with an ornamental fountain. The new Pinakothek building served as the final home for the papal collection of paintings. Using the new premises, Pope Pius XI doubled. her portfolio of paintings.
The work dates from the Middle Ages to 1800. The 16 halls show - in chronological and regional order - Italian paintings and tapestries from the 11th to 19th centuries. Century with mainly Christian pictorial themes. As a papal collection of paintings, the Vatican Pinakothek presents important works from the Renaissance and Baroque periods, e. B. by Giotto , Fra Angelico , Perugino , Leonardo da Vinci , Raffael , Tizian , Federico Barocci , Caravaggio , Guido Reni , Carlo Maratta and Johann Wenzel Peter . Some pictures come from the Vatican St. Peter's Basilica, which have been replaced by mosaic copies since the 17th century. Many of the paintings on display were brought to Paris by Napoleon in 1797 and returned as a result of the Congress of Vienna .
Today there are three courtyards, the Cortile della Pigna , the Cortile della Biblioteca and the Cortile del Belvedere . The Cortile della Pigna owes its name to a huge, almost 4 m high bronze pine cone . This was located in ancient Rome near the Pantheon and was brought to the forecourt of the old St. Peter's Church in the Middle Ages. It was given its current location in 1608. To the right and left of the pine cone there are two bronze peacocks, copies of the originals from the 2nd century AD, which are kept in Braccio Nuovo . The Cortile della Biblioteca and Cortile del Belvedere flank the Vatican Library .
The famous Cortile di Belvedere (Courtyard of the Belvedere) was originally the nucleus of the Vatican Museums. The court was laid out under Innocent VIII by Jacopo (also Giacomo) da Pietrasanta according to Bramante's plans.
The courtyard with a fountain in the middle was initially laid out as a square garden with orange trees, it was first furnished with antiques by Julius II and converted into an octagonal courtyard after its conversion. At the eight corners and in the middle of each side there are niches in which classic masterpieces were displayed. In 1775 the system was changed by Simonetti and a connecting hall was added. Since Pius VI. this extension around the Cortile di Belvedere is called Museo Pio-Clementino. In 1803 Pius VII had four pavilions built, named after the statues placed in them: a Hermes, the Apollo from Belvedere after Leochares , the Perseus with the head of Medusa by Canova and the impressive Laocoon group .
From the garden courtyard one reaches a round vestibule, the Gabinetto dell'Apoxyomenos , in which the statue of the scraper , a Roman copy of an original by Lysippus , is located. If you step through the torso hall, you can access the Chiaramonti Museum via a descending staircase.
Museums and collections
The Museo Chiaramonti is housed in the loggia that connects the small Belvedere Palace with the Vatican palaces and is named after its founder, Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1800–1823). The museum was established in 1807 by the classicist sculptor Antonio Canova . It consists of the Galleria Chiaramonti , the Galleria Lapidaria and the Braccio Nuovo .
The large Galleria Chiaramonti consists of a 300 meter long and 6.70 meter wide colonnade that Bramante designed to create a connection between the Raphael loggias and the Belvedere's garden house. The collection contains around a thousand sculptures, portraits of emperors, sarcophagi and friezes, and elaborate mosaics are embedded in the floor. Both sides of the long corridor are flanked by marble works from the Roman Empire, mostly copies of Greek originals. The artistic inventory includes Herakles with Telephos , Dionysus with satyr , a copy of the dressed Niobe after Skopas and many others.
The new wing, Galleria detta Braccio Nuovo , was moved across the existing gallery by the architect Raphael Stern between 1817 and 1822. The new corridor is 70 meters long and 8 meters wide; the center is architecturally formed by a cross with equal arms, which ends in a large semicircle on the left and is connected to the Giardino della Pigna on the right . The Braccio Nuovo has 28 large arched niches on both sides, 15 rectangular niches for statues, above 32 consoles , and between 32 pedestals for busts. The barrel vault , adorned with stucco rosettes , is broken up by 12 windows that illuminate the works of art on display. The Braccio Nuovo houses important statues: with the wounded Amazon and Doryphorus, among other things, two Roman copies based on the works of Polyklets and the lying river god Nile, discovered in 1513 . From the series of Roman imperial statues, the Augustus of Prima Porta , an armored Domitian and a Titus with toga stand out. The female deities are impressed by Fortuna , the goddess of fortune and fate , the armored Minerva Giustiniani , Diana Lucifera and Hera Borghese as well as a robed statue of Pudicitia with a diadem . The statue of a Greek poet with a theatrical mask that was found headless was supplemented with a head of Euripides under Pius VII. The Braccio Nuovo underwent extensive restoration of the classical sculptures and the architectural structure between 2009 and 2016.
The Galleria Lapidaria contains more than 3,000 stone tablets and inscriptions from pagan and early Christian times. It was set up by the papal archivist Gaetano Marini and is the largest collection of its kind in the world. The Galleria Lapidaria was closed for a long time due to water ingress, but has been open to visitors since 2005.
The museum was founded by Pope Clement XIV in 1771 after purchasing the antique collection of Fusconi and Mattei and was intended to house the most important Greek and Roman works of art in the Vatican. Pope Pius VI (Pontificate 1775 to 1799) enlarged the museum and expanded the collection. The museum was built by Pope Pius VI. continued until 1793 according to the plans of the architect Michelangelo Simonetti, hence the name "Museo Pio-Clementino". Pius VI had an entrance to the atrium built above the Cortile Ottagonale of the Belvedere, the museum comprises 12 rooms. A famous part of the complex is the spiral-shaped “Scala Bramante”, laid out in a square tower. The staircase was commissioned by Julius II in 1512 to connect the palace of Innocent VIII with the city.
The first room, Sala a croce greca, with the floor plan of a Greek cross houses the porphyry sarcophagi of Constance and Helena (daughter and mother of the emperor Constantine the Great). From there you step into the second round room, the Sala Rotonda , a work by Simonetti. The interior design in the style of the Pantheon , covered with a dome that is well worth seeing. There are ten large niches all around, two of which serve as passageways and eight niches accommodate statues and busts. Among these are the marble heads of Serapis and Zeus of Otricoli , the Juno Barberini and a Faustina minor as well as the colossal statues of the Emperor Claudius as Jupiter, the enthroned Nerva and the crowned Antinous, personifying the allegory of Bacchus. The floor is covered with magnificent mosaics: fighting centaurs, tritons and nereids, in the middle a porphyry bowl made from one piece from the 2nd century.
The following Sala delle Muse (Room of the Muses) contains eight statues of the Muses and - as a guide of the arts - Apollon Kitharoidos , all of which were found in the eighteenth century during excavations in Hadrian's Villa in Tivoli. In the center of the hall you can admire the so-called Torso from the Belvedere , a work that was previously installed in the Torso Hall and which inspired Michelangelo to occupy himself. The exhibition also includes several friezes and busts, including marble portraits of the Greeks Plato , Bias , Socrates , Epicurus and Pericles , the latter a copy of a bronze portrait after Kresilas . These sculptures were also arranged by the architect Simonetti according to the octagonal floor plan of the hall.
The curious Sala degli Animali (room of the animals) mostly contains sculptures of various animal species, all of which were made by the sculptor Francesco Franzoni (1734–1818) or restored from ancient holdings. The room has marble sculptures of domestic and wild animals, but also of fantastic animals such as centaurs, a griffin and the minotaur. In the middle main niche, the Meleager with the dog, based on an original by Scopas, stands out, while the Mithras Tauroctonos appears remarkable between smaller exhibits : Mithras sacrifices a bull, while a scorpion and a dog try to prevent him.
The following Galleria delle Statue (Gallery of Statues) and the Sala dei Busti (Hall of Busts) were furnished with several round arches by the architect Pollajuolo between 1484 and 1492 and decorated with paintings by Mantegna and Pinturicchio. The hall was restored under Clement XIV and under Pius VI. enlarged, whereby the frescoes in the lunettes perished. The gallery contains seated statues of the pseudo-Menander and the poet Poseidippus . Also to be mentioned are the statue of the youthful Apollon Sauroktonos , the sleeping Ariadne , the Vatican Danaide and a wounded Amazon after Kresilas. The main work is a copy of a Hellenistic original of Zeus Verospi on the throne with the thunderbolt in his right hand. In the bust room , the sculptures of Menelaus and several Roman emperors should be emphasized.
The ceiling of the Gabinetto delle Maschere (Room of the Masks) is supported by eight alabaster columns. Four square mosaics from the 2nd century, which come from Hadrian's villa, are incorporated into the floor. The main works of this hall are two copies of Hellenistic originals, a Knidic Aphrodite based on Praxiteles and a crouching Aphrodite .
In a separate section of the complex is the Atrio dei Quattro Cancelli (Atrium of the Four Gates) and above it the Sala della Biga (Room of the Two-Man Couple), a dome rotunda from the time of Pius VI, both were designed between 1786 and 1795 by the architect Giuseppe Create Camporese. The two-man hall contains statues and sarcophagi depicting athletes and circus scenes. In the center of the room is a marble biga (two-horse chariot) whose carriage is of ancient origin, but whose drawbar and left horse were added in 1788 by the sculptor Franzoni. In the Middle Ages, the Biga served as a bishop's see in San Marco. Particularly noteworthy in this room are the statue of the discus thrower after Myron and a bearded Dionysios Sardanapalos after a Greek original by Praxiteles.
When the Museo Pio-Clementino was founded, the Galleria dei Candelabri was an open loggia, and it was Simonetti who had it converted to its present-day condition. The Galleria takes its name from the various marble candelabra pairs from the Roman Empire on both sides of the arcades, which divide the hall into six sections. Under Leo XIII. Dominik Torti and Ludwig Seitz carried out the frescoes in the hall from 1883 to 1887.
Museo Gregoriano Egizio
The Gregorian-Egyptian Museum was founded in 1839 by Gregory XVI. founded and houses an extensive collection of finds from ancient Egypt. It contains papyrus documents, mummies, the famous "Book of the Dead" and the "Grassi Collection". The museum contains few works from the early Egyptian period, but numerous sculptures from the Saitic and Hellenistic periods. The somewhat “Egyptian” decoration of the rooms seems inappropriate. A significant limestone head of Pharaoh Mentuhotep IV (around 2030 BC) and a colossal statue of mother Ramses II, which was executed as an allegory of Isis from black granite, should be emphasized .
Museo Gregoriano Etrusco
The on February 2, 1837 by Pope Gregory XVI. Founded Gregorian-Etruscan Museum shows archaeological finds from southern Etruria such as vases and bronzes. The collection also contains an extensive collection of vases from Hellenized Italy and finds from Roman times. The Etruscan collection is mainly based on finds discovered in 1828 from cemeteries in western Etruria near Vulci . The well-known Mars of Todi is a technically perfect bronze figure, but has not yet reached the living spirit of the Greek models. The spear has been lost on the left hand and a wreath has been lost on the right. A bronze biga (wagon) , on which the jewelry of the wheels impresses and the wooden parts of which have been restored, dates from the 4th century BC. Also worth mentioning is a Greek amphora by the vase painter Exekias , which shows Achilles and Ajax playing dice .
Museo Gregoriano Profano
The museum was founded on May 16, 1884 by Gregory XVI. set up in the Lateran Palace and moved to the Vatican in June 1970. The construction project associated with the relocation took place in Pope Paul VI. a great supporter and was entrusted to the engineering office Passarelli. The modern extension uses natural light, which enables the exhibited objects to be illuminated if there is no room division through large glass and skylights. The department for early Greek culture is represented by grave steles, votive reliefs and architectural fragments. Other halls contain Greek originals or copies of Greek works from Roman times. The Athena-Marsyas group according to Myron should be emphasized . The sculpture of the Roman imperial period from the 1st to 3rd centuries AD is given a lot of space, supplemented by grave sculptures, altars and sarcophagi. The Cancelleria reliefs exhibited there are striking .
Museo Pio Cristiano
The finds of the Museo Pio Cristiano, established in the Lateran Palace in 1854, come from the Museo Sacro of the Vatican Apostolic Library, from churches and from excavations in Roman catacombs . In 1963 the museum was moved to the Vatican. It is located in the same new building as the Museo Gregoriano Profano. Above all, late antique sarcophagi and grave inscriptions are exhibited.
That of Pope Pius XI. Founded in 1929, the museum was originally located in the Lateran Palace like the Museo Gregoriano Profano and was also moved to the Vatican in 1973. Among the most interesting objects in the museum are models of places of worship of other denominations. It contains works of art from Mexico, Guatemala and Nicaragua and evidence of religious, mainly Buddhist life in Tibet, Indonesia, India and the Far East. Finds from Islamic culture and native art from Central Africa are also on display.
The ethnological department of the Museo Missionario-Etnologico was reopened in October 2019 under the name Anima Mundi (Soul of the World).
Museo Storico Vaticano
The museum, founded in 1973, houses the papal state carriages and other means of transport that have been used over the centuries . In addition to carriages , automobiles and sedan chairs , the model of the first locomotive in Vatican City from 1929 can be seen.
- 1920–1954: Bartolomeo Nogara
- 1971-1978: Deoclecio Redig de Campos
- 1978-1995: Carlo Pietrangeli
- 1996-2007: Francesco Buranelli
- 2007-2016: Antonio Paolucci
- since January 1, 2017 Barbara Jatta
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- Plan of the Vatican Library
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