It is the smallest country on Earth, supporting only 825 people, and settled in the heart of Rome. It is also the seat of power for the Roman Catholic Church, and brings in millions of visitors, and pilgrims every year. Most of them tour the Vatican Museum so they can have an opportunity to view Michelangelo’s famous painting of the Sistine Chapel. But before they are able to make it to this piece of art, they have to make their way through their vast collection of art and antiquities collected from Roman excavations and the surrounding areas. And what a collection it is. For instance, you could ignore the ancient Roman marble statues that are hanging around the room, or the ornate mosaic floor that is over 2000 years old, and just focus on the large bowl in the center of the room. This was a bathtub used by the emperor Nero, and is made of one single piece of a rare red stone called, porphyry. This is not to mention the architectural dome that hangs over this artifact, and is a masterpiece in its own right. All of this combined adds up to a large chunk of change that could be used to create its own museum.
But it is only one of many rooms that hold masterpieces not only from Ancient Rome, and some of the greatest works of art from the Renaissance period as well. This is a depiction of one of the many frescos that are painted on the walls by the master painter, Raphael. There are others as well from Michelangelo that include some of his sculptures, and of course, the Sistine Chapel. I think I even saw a couple of paintings from Dali and Picasso hiding in the corners of the labyrinth of art.
The collection does not only contain priceless pieces of art from Europe. There is also a substantial amount of Egyptian art that was collected during the early expansion of the Roman empire. At first they seem a little out of place among the classical Greek and Roman features, but then thinking about the history of this area, the pieces seem like they should belong with all of the rest of the collection. It demonstrates the spread of the Roman influence and how open they were when bringing in other cultures as long as they accepted their gods as well as their own.
The vast collection of art is not the only thing that will turn your head if you visit this sight. The building itself is one of the few that are featured in the Vatican. It has architectural wonders that date all the way back to the Renaissance. The Church hired the best from this area to create the museum, and one of its greatest features is the dual staircase that leads to the exit of the museum. It sit below a dome and after a three hour tour of magnificent piece of art, it will have people stopping to marvel at it. It is one of the more modern sights in the building, but feels right in place among all of the other classical pieces of art.
I have been to a lot of impressive museums in my lifetime, and I have seen some amazing pieces of art, but nothing like the collection that is held in the Vatican’s museum. I have also toured some of the world’s greatest houses that have gathered a vast amount of wealth, but once again, nothing like the collection that is housed in the Vatican’s museum. It is a jaw-dropping experience, and almost distracts you from the fact that you are standing in front of a great work on art from centuries ago that has long withstood the decaying of time. It is a place that would require a few visits to really let your mind wrap around what it is your seeing. I believe that the best way to think about it during your first visit is to not think about the wealth that is housed here and appreciate the art instead. It will give you a different perspective at what you are looking at.