This was the high point of our time in Rome. We were able to visit the Sistine Chapel by ourselves. Also, the guide showed us part of the Vatican Gardens, which were not part of the tour. It was remarkable and overwhelming. I was in tears.
Years of history press against the Vatican’s holy walls, bursting with secrets, the comings and goings of artistic masters, and a splendor that glitters with the many treasures of the papacy. In 2020, the Vatican Museums welcomed around 1.3 million visitors, and before that, the spiritual house had over 6 million travelers walking through its hallways. The Vatican remains a highly sought-after destination worldwide for good reason. To be surrounded by Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel frescoes is an experience of transcendence in and of itself.
With the busy crowds, the last thing you’d want while you’re admiring the greatest works of art known to mankind is to be rushed through it. But what if we told you that you could have the whole museum to yourself?
Context offers a once-in-a-lifetime, intimate experience with our Vatican After Hours Tour that gives you the unique opportunity to wander underneath the high ceilings with just you and an art historian. Ready to take you back to the Vatican Museum’s origins in 1506, our experts will illuminate the Catholic Church’s celebrated collections from Laocoön and His Sons to the Creation of Adam and beyond.
What an eye these religious figures had for art. The early days of the Vatican collections were intended for the Pope to enjoy on his own contemplative time. The Catholic giants could wander from room to room, taking in the ancient figures of Roman mythology and fit them into their own religious narratives. Completely alone with his thoughts, the bishop of Rome could truly absorb mankind’s grandeur.
During After Hours at the Vatican, you can experience the collections as the popes do. As the sun gets nearer to setting and people start to file out at the close of the museum, you are struck by how you are almost completely alone. The place is different with hundreds of people suddenly gone. A sense of serenity and meditation might overcome you amongst the quiet Vatican art and sculpture.
The gallery is yours.
Now, visiting the Vatican while it’s open during the day can be an overwhelming experience, but being left alone with the world’s most recognized objects is a different kind of inundation. You are left with your emotions, provoked by a beauty that has withstood time and space.
Context’s After Hours at the Vatican tour is led by art historians that can alleviate some of your intimidation. Our art historians have dedicated years to studying Vatican paintings and sculptures in-depth, so you’re in good hands. Cecilia Martini, for example, is a native Roman with a Master's degree in Medieval and Renaissance art, a passion for ancient history, and a former educator at the Vatican Museums.
Since it’s your private collection, you have full control over what you’d like to see. Depending on your interest, you’ll have the opportunity to see the celebrated pieces of Belvedere Torso, Laocoön and His Sons, the Sistine Chapel, paintings by the Renaissance greats like Raphael, Caravaggio, Michelangelo, Bernini, da Vinci, as well as more contemporary religious artworks done by Van Gogh, Gauguin, Salvador Dalí, Pablo Picasso, and Carlo Carrà. Between the Raphael Rooms, the Bramante-inspired spiral staircase, Gallery of Maps, necropolis, and more, there’s much to explore at the Vatican Museums, but we’ll make sure that you’re only seeing what you want to see.
The rooms might seem like a maze at first, and you might not easily see the common thread that connects them all. With an art historian guiding the way, you’ll discover how the riches of the papacy have made their home here.
When the crowds have long gone from the museum, you have a chance to settle into the majestic arched hallways of the Vatican in almost complete isolation. Having the time to ponder row after row of busts, columns, and ornate frescoes, you might understand why Pope Julius II began to accumulate the first art collection of the Catholic Church in the 14th century. The popes' job throughout history has been to inspire reverence, and they identified early that art was the perfect medium to show power, magnificence, and devotion. In the magical hour of the evening, in your own peace, you're sure to find a cosmic connection amongst the great, legendary Vatican collections.
Context has plenty of other opportunities for you to experience the Vatican in all of its splendor. Discover the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Basilica, and the Vatican Museums: one of the world's great repositories of ancient and Renaissance art. Explore art, papal history, and construction of the Vatican, including Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, in the company of an art historian through our other Vatican tours. And while you're in the area, you can get acquainted with Rome's history, food, and culture.
Want to learn with a true expert? Get a comprehensive view with one of Context's tours, or learn more about your favorite destination or topic with our virtual, live-taught courses and seminars.
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