The Vatican Museums are one of the largest and oldest museum collections in the world. With over 40 rooms viewable by the public containing thousands of pieces of art, the sheer size of the complex surprises most visitors.
The majority of the museums are rooms of ancient Roman sculpture and Renaissance paint work. You have to go through the Vatican Museums to get to the Sistine Chapel so all tours, including my own, start there.
Once inside, you have a choice of which route to take. Since the year 2000 the museums have been a one way system. Seeing all of the Museums would take about 4 hours, half would take 2, the minimum route lasts 1 hour before you can see the chapel. This is the same regardless of what guide or tour you choose.
The Museums were started over 500 years ago, in 1506, when the Laocoon statue was discovered buried in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Michelangelo out to appraise it and on his advice bought it and started collecting sculpture for the Vatican. Julius already owned the Apollo Belvadere statue and brought this to the Vatican, commissioning architect Donato Bramante to build a courtyard to house these.
Julius is the man who paid Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel Ceiling and paid Raphael to paint the papal apartments, which we now call the Raphael Rooms. This period of increased artistic standards and reinterest in ancient sculpture would be called the Renaissance or rebirth.
Over time different Popes added to the collections either buying or commissioning sculpture and paintings and the museums expanded accordingly.
Rooms the Museums include:Pinacoteca