The Vatican Museums are institutions housing the enormous collections of antiquities and works of art accumulated by the papacy since the beginning of the 15th century. As the leaders of the Christian Church the popes were continually showered with gifts; as political rulers they were, paradoxically, chief guardians of the remains of pagan Rome until Italy was unified in 1870. The Vatican collections are now among the largest and most important in the world, housed in a complex of buildings in the papal palace and elsewhere in the Vatican. There are several separate museums and the visitor to them is also admitted to the exhibition rooms of the Vatican Library and to various suites of Renaissance painting, of which the most important are the Sistine Chapel, decorated by Michelangelo and others, and the Stanze, decorated by Raphael and others.
The museums had their origin with Julius II (pontificate 1503-13), who placed some of the most famous works of classical sculpture in the Cortile del Belvedere (Belvedere Court), accessible to artists, connoisseurs. and scholars. However, it was not until 1734 that a museum proper was set up by Clement XII. Now, as then, the Vatican Museums are most famous for their classical statues, including the Apollo Belvedere. the Belvedere Torso, and the Laoco÷n, but they also contain great riches in, for example, Egyptian art, jewellery, and vestments. The Pinacoteca (picture gallery) has an impressive if somewhat haphazard collection, devoted mainly to Italian painting of the 13th century to the 17th century. There is also a collection of modern religious art, most of it merely of curiosity value.
You can find more information on the Musei Vaticani at the official page (in Italian) or at the Christus Rex page.
Recommended viewing from the collection:
The Web Gallery of Art contains 745 images of artworks exhibited in the Musei Vaticani and in the Basilica di San Pietro.