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Explore the untold riches of the Vatican Museums in the magical atmosphere of our night tour during their special evening openings. A rare opportunity for a romantic visit to the Vatican
Discover the masterpieces of the Vatican in the magical atmosphere of a Roman night
Only rarely are the Vatican Museums open at this unusual hour. This Vatican group tour is a fascinating opportunity to visit these palaces and their artworks in the calm of the night, enveloped in an intimacy that emanates from the dark of the gardens illuminated only by torches. In this magical atmosphere we will take an impassioned voyage into history and art, religion and politics; an intense experience of a careful selection of artworks that will help you comprehend the events and the ideas of the time, and meet the popes who commissioned them along with the artists who created them.
Retracing the lives of the great artists and the important political and religious figures who commissioned them will be the best way to reconstruct the city of politics, ideals, and daily life in which the masterpieces that we will encounter were produced. This will make it possible to discern something of the inspirations and passions that animated Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, Bernini, and to comprehend the meaning of their works, the sense they had for their contemporaries, and what they tell us today after centuries. Optimizing your time with a well-planned itinerary, this Vatican group tour will make it easier to follow the evolution of the rituals, institutions, and forms of art within our society, from the past until today, helping us better comprehend the present through the perspective of the past.
The Historical Context
The Vatican Museums occupy a vast portion of the papal palaces and, in addition to being in and of themselves precious works of architecture, they house many masterpieces in the very locations the popes desired, and for which they created these structures over the centuries. The long history of construction of these palaces and the new Basilica began with the return of the popes to Rome after more than a century of absence from the city. Led by Martin V in 1420, and driven by a desire to bring an end to the degradation of the city whose population had dropped below 20,000 inhabitants (from about one million in the 1st century A.D.) and whose former glory had all but vanished, the Church and the powerful Romans initiated the Renovatio Urbis, the renovation of the city. This renovation was only one of many sweeping the cities of the Italian Renaissance and bringing significant change to all fields of knowledge, art, and daily life. From the invention of the printing press to the maps that permitted Columbus to cross the ocean and reach America, from the laws of perspective to gun powder, from the techniques that allowed Brunelleschi to construct the dome of the Florence Cathedral and Michelangelo the one at St. Peter's, to the loves of famous prostitutes and courtesans, we're talking about the Renaissance. The Renaissance is a time of renewal and discovery, and we in our turn will rediscover this fascinating history on our Vatican group tours.
The Vatican Museums
The Vatican Museums possess one of the world's richest collections of Greek and Roman art, thanks to the unbridled passions that, from the Renaissance onward, led the popes to amass ancient artworks. Here we will accompany you in fascinating adventures of discovery, introducing you to works of great beauty like the Laocoon, the Apollo Belvedere, and dozens of others, helping you understand their original meaning and, at times, their secrets. Between the Courtyard of the Pinecone, the Belvedere Courtyard, and the Gallery of the Candelabra, and from the Belvedere Torso to the many statues that merit our attention, the journey we will undertake on this Vatican group tour is captivating. The same fascinating journey was made by the men of the Renaissance who gathered around the tables luxuriously set by popes and princes. Between rivers of wine and refined dishes, artists and courtesans, philosophers and cardinals discussed the works of the ancients, the new and surprising finds of ancient statues, and the great undertakings of the day like the construction of the new basilica within the old one.
We will also see the sarcophagi of Helen and Costanza, mother and daughter of the emperor Constantine. Made of red porphyry, they are carved with symbols from Christianity at its origins. We will come across stunning works in the Hall of Maps and the Gallery of Tapestries, all the while uncovering the history of these sumptuous and often spectacular palaces.
The Raphael Rooms (the Stanze) and the Sistine Chapel vault by Michelangelo will of course represent the high point of our journey and by the time we arrive there, you will be well versed in who these artists were, what they thought, how they lived, what their ideals and passions were, their extravagances and weaknesses. Thus it will be easy to immerse yourself in the figures and the histories painted in these frescoes, to fully understand their meaning and enjoy their beauty. On this group tour of the Vatican we will consider ideas such as what made it possible for sensual and even nude figures to be painted in the pope's chapel, we will tell you of the legends—true and false—of their creation, as for instance the false legend that Michelangelo painted his famous ceiling by himself, a story circulated by people unfamiliar with the technique of fresco and with the letters the artist himself wrote on the subject. We will also discuss the competition between these two geniuses of the Renaissance in the court of the pope Julius II, himself a complex character capable of terrible excesses of anger. But at its heart the Renaissance was a time of beauty, a time when the beauty of the body and the spirit were finally united. Join us on one of our Vatican walking tours to discover it.