The collection of galleries and rooms of artistic value owned by the Catholic Church in Vatican City is known as the Vatican Museums. They are open to the public.
Their origin was the private collection of Cardinal Giuliano della Rovere, elected pope in 1503 under the name of Julius II. He transferred his collection to the Belvedere Courtyard, originally belonging to the papal residence created by Innocent VIII and today known as the Octagon Courtyard, adorned with magnificent statues.
Over the years the artistic patrimony grew enormously with the power of new popes and the treasures obtained from the Roman catacombs, the works of the Basilicas of St. Peter's and St. John Lateran and the multiple archaeological works. For all this artistic wealth, buildings and new galleries were constructed, together with passageways to connect them.
The available funds also grew, mainly with the contribution of the great Italian families with a tradition of art collecting, whose members also included cardinals who became pontiffs.
This museum complex is made up of various thematic museum buildings, pontifical buildings, galleries, monuments and gardens. The Vatican Library, founded by Pope Nicholas V in the mid-15th century, is one of the best in the world: it currently holds 75,000 manuscripts and 1,100,000 books.
The Vatican Museums are a source of artistic wonders that reflect part of the history of human beings.
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