Wednesday, February 16, 2011

February-the best time to visit the Vatican Museums

February  20, 2013  Update  Pre-Conclave Weeks in Vatican 

Don't try to enter  Vatican City  in the next few weeks, security has been tightened up.  If you are going to the Pharmacy, be sure you have  a doctor's  prescription...or the Swiss Guards, kindly but firmly ,  will send you away.

My local museum on a  sunny February morning

   February is the best month for visiting  museums in Italy, including one in the "foreign country" known  as Vatican City State.  Vatican has its own money, telephone and postal systems and even license plates like this one  on a vehicle parked at  the new Museum entrance.  
SCV  stands for  Stato Città Vaticano or  as  malignant  Vatican watchers say, "Se Cristo Vedesse", ("If Christ  could only see!").

The sun filled atrium, new Museum entrance. Where are the crowds ?  
   For years I have put off a nostalgic  visit to the Museums due to tourists' tales  of  endless lines at both St. Peter's Basilica (my former "parish") and the  Museums.

 Forums are clogged with  discussions on  the best time of day to attempt a visit and  tour agencies and private guides have  become wealthy selling "skip the lines" tours.
Time  and space to enjoy  the details
  The photos taken during our visit are evidence that Wednesday mornings in January and February  are preferable for a leisurely, in-depth, independent  visit. 
 Most of the visitors to the Vatican  on Wednesdays are taking in the Papal Audience in the hall  on the other side of the tiny country.
Masterpiece  in  the outdoor Sculpture courtyard 
Sistine Chapel without  crowds: Michelangelo's Last Judgement and ceiling 
One can get upclose to the works of art, enjoy the frescoes and statuary. 

Raphael's "School of Athens"  with philosopher  Ipazia of Alexandria
The guards are not hassled  and more lenient with the "one-way"  rules. 
Beyond the spacious atrium where audio guides are available, there are abundant souvenir and book stalls, new coffee shops and a new  Vatican Archives shop with replicas of important historical documents.

 I noticed  letters from Abraham Lincoln, FD Roosevelt and replicas of coins and medals  of emperors, kings and saints. 
Original Papal bull with wax signature seals  concerning Henry VIII's divorce

 Vatican Archives researcher Barbara Frale,  who lives in nearby Orte, found documents explaining the true story of  the  Templar Knights and the resulting special edition  is available here for a mere  6000 euro.

 Replica copies on vellum  of the documents concerning King Henry VIII's  divorce (of the 200 printed, one went to Queen Elizabeth II)  are  now out of print.
 I am proud that the translator of the document used my library to help with her work .

Signposts show the way to many, varied sections of the Vatican Museums
How to avoid cultural indigestion and  Stendhal Syndrome?  My advice is to pinpoint  one or two special places to visit and not try to see everything. 
Don't forget to visit my website for more insider tips. 


  1. Last night, the Smithsonian channel on cable here had a special on Michelangelo. We were both surprised to learn he died at 81 and that he painted "The Last Judgment" on the Sistine wall when he was 61. Pope Paul III had this painted to warn all the reformers (like Luther) that they would be going to hell for walking away from the church.

  2. Michelangelo was given special permission for Holy Year 1550 to ride a donkey to the 7 different churches,thus gaining the Plenary Indulgence, instead of doing the rounds on foot.
    More info on his life here:

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