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Vatican

Main attractions

St. Peter's Square, Vatican
St. Peter's Square / Gary Ullah, / CC BY 2.0

Vatican is religious centre of global importance and in spite of its minuscule size here are located several landmarks of world importance. In fact these landmarks cover... major part of this country.

In Vatican are located several of world's most important structures and artworks of Renaissance and also Baroque, such as the giant St. Peter's Basilica and Sistine Chapel with its frescoes - some of world's best known works or art.

Man made landmarks

Castles and palaces

Frescoes in Borgia Apartments, Vatican
Frescoes in Borgia Apartments / Herb Neufeld, / CC BY 2.0
  • Apostolic Palace (Papal Palace) – the residence of the Pope, connected to Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Includes Papal Apartments, the beautiful Raphael Rooms – suite of reception rooms adorned with frescoes made by Raphael and Borgia Apartments with immense art values. Formally the palace includes numerous buildings which here are reviewed separately. Includes the enormous collection of Modern Religious Art with artworks of Picasso, Rodin, van Gogh, Chagall and numerous other famous artists.
  • Casina Pio IV - beautiful patrician villa, now serves as the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. Constructed in 1558 – 1562 in Mannesrist style. White facades if the building are adorned with numerous sculptures.
  • Saint John’s Tower - round fortification tower in the west, part of medieval fortifications, constructed in the 13th century. Since the 1960ies used as apartments.
Paintings on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel, Vatican
Paintings on the ceiling of Sistine Chapel / Gunnar Grimnes, / CC BY 2.0

Churches

  • San Pellegrino in Vaticano - ancient oratory, built around 800 AD and contains traces of frescoes from the 9th century. The building itself now is much younger, the oldest parts are from the 15th century but the façade is in Neo-Classical style, built in 1671.
  • Sant'Anna dei Palafrenieri - church in Baroque style, built in 1565 – 1583. One of the early examples of Baroque, one of the first churches with an elliptical plan.
  • Sistine Chapel - chapel at the Apostolic Palace, an important place for papal activity, the site where new pope is selected. This church is not especially large but it has very special importance for the history of church and art history. Built in 1473 – 1481 and known in the world thanks to the frescoes made by such Renaissance artists as Sandro Botticelli, Michelangelo, Domenico Ghilandaio, Pietro Perugino. These frescoes are among world’s highest achievement in art.
  • St. Peter's Basilica - best known of the four ancient papal basilicas. The most important church in Christian history, with the largest interior of any church. The largest structure in Vatican which in fact occupies a significant part of this state. The present basilica was built in 1506 - 1626 and represents one of the most important pieces of Renaissance architecture. Contains several graves including the purported grave of Saint Peter (Vatican Necropolis).
  • St Stephen of the Abyssinians - the oldest existing church in Vatican, originally built in the 5th century. Rebuilt in 1159, with a façade from the early 18th century. Historical Ethiopian and Coptic church. Contains fresco from the 15th century.

Museums

  • Pinacoteca Vaticana - important art gallery in a beautiful building which was constructed in 1932. Rich art collections include numerous important Renaissance paintings, made also by Raphael, Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Giotto.
  • Vatican Museums - group of museums, dispersed in the rooms of Apostolic Palace and Belvedere. Includes several museums of Christian art from around the world, Gregoriano Etrusco Museum (one of the best collections of Etruscan art). Formally includes Pinacoteca, Vatican Library.
Sistine hall in Vatican Library
Sistine hall in Vatican Library / Anna & Michal, / CC BY-SA 2.0

Other man made landmarks

  • Gregorian Tower - astronomical observatory in Vatican Museums, a tower which rises above the Gallery of Maps. Built in 1578 – 1580 in order to provide the necessary astronomical data for the Gregorian Calendar Reform. It was equipped with the best available astronomy instruments.
  • St. Peter’s Square - enormous plaza in front of St. Peter’s Basilica. Square was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini in 1656 - 1677, when massive Tuscan colonnades were built around it, directing the attention to the Basilica. One of the highest achievements in Baroque city planning.
  • The Obelisk - Egyptian obelisk in the centre of St. Peter’s Square. This 25.31 m tall obelisk was made in 1835 BC and was brought to Rome in 37 BC, during the times of Emperor Caligula. Witness of the martyrdom of St.Peter.
  • Vatican Library - one of the oldest and most important libraries in the world. Contains thousands of unique and very valuable historical texts which provide new knowledge up to this day. Oldest documents are up to 2000 years old. Total length of shelves is 42 kilometres. Especially beautiful is the Sistine Hall which is adorned with frescoes.
  • Vatican Gardens
    Vatican Gardens / Randy OHC, / CC BY 2.0
    Vatican Necropolis - necropolis under St. Peter’s Basilica. Started as open air cemetery in the times of Roman Emperor Caligula. Here around 64 – 67 was buried Saint Peter as he was martyred in the nearby Circus of Nero. Around this site started the development of Vatican – in the times of Emperor Constantine I was started construction of the first basilica over the tomb. Site contains numerous Roman mausoleums, including Tomb of the Julii with beautiful mosaic from the late 3rd – early 4th century.
  • Vatican Gardens - western half of Vatican for most part consists of beautiful gardens and parks with numerous great examples of park architecture and sculpture. Total area – 23 ha. Redesigned in the 16th century in Renaissance style. Oldest structures here are from the 9th century. Contains 14 permanently enshrined Marian images.

List of described attractions

ArrowSt. Peter's BasilicaChurches

Map of Vatican

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