Visiting the Eternal City? Rome is full of beautiful and awe-inspiring works of art. Read on for the most epic works of artistic brilliance that you cannot miss.
** Note: Usually my blog posts feature all of my own pictures, however many of these site have restrictions on photography due to the delicate nature of the art, so for this piece I use others photos and will note the credit in the captions
A quick spot of history- many of these works of art are from the Renaissance era. The Catholic Church was the biggest and most important patron of the arts for quite literally hundreds of years. Pope Julius II (1503-1513) was perhaps the most famous (or infamous) of them all. He commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel and sculpt the Pieta in St. Peter’s. He found and nurtured Raphael, as well as expanding St. Peter’s and the Vatican in general. Fun fact- He was also the Pope that granted the dispensation that allowed Henry the VIII to marry Katherine of Aragon after she was previously married to his brother Arthur.
The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel is the most famous (and the most crowded) tourist attraction in Rome. Plan in advance! I was an idiot the first time I went and stood in line for 3 hours to get tickets and get in- don’t do this! Buy your tickets online in advance. Beware- it will be extremely crowded any time of the day and photos are forbidden. Michaelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II to paint the ceiling, which he worked on from 1508 to 1512. It is considered one of the most important works of art in human history. It features biblical scenes, and perhaps the Creation of Man is the most celebrated and widely recognized throughout the world. Don’t miss works by Botticelli and Raphael in the Chapel as well.
Michelangelo was not just a beautiful painter, he was also a brilliant sculptor. At 23 years old, he sculpted the Pieta. This is a statute of Mary holding Christ after he was removed from the Cross. It is in marble and you can see her sorrow in every inch. Perhaps most impressive is the fabric of her clothing which just seems to fall and fold elegantly. The Pieta was so stunningly beautiful that it was this piece that helped launch his career. This magnificent work is now behind glass as in the past someone threw acid on it.
Raphaels’s School of Athens and the Transfiguration
Both works are located within the Vatican. The School of Athens is quite possibly his most famous work featuring Greek philosophers other brilliant men. The Transfiguration is a multi-dimensional scene featuring Mary ascending into Heaven and the feast celebrating it.
This was a home originally built by the influential Sforza family, but was later purchased by the Barberini family. Both families boasted pope’s in their family tree. See the salon ceiling which is Pietro de Cortona’s masterpiece fresco. Don’t miss works by Raphael, Caravaggio and Hans Holbein. The architecture itself is full of interesting and insta-worthy details. I could wander here for hours.
Church of Santa Maria Della Vitoria
Bernini’s Ecstasy of St. Theresa
In my opinion, Bernini was one of the most talented sculptors to ever walk the Earth. If you have ever seen Angels and Demons, Bernini features prominently in it. After the Vatican museum, this was the work of art I wanted to see the most.
The Borghese’s were one of Italy’s leading families that were known for their wealth, and their patronage of the arts. This former home is now an art museum that houses some of the most important works of Raphael, Titian, Rubens, and Caravaggio.
Basilica of Santa Maria Del Popolo
This was one of the first churches that worshippers who entered the city would come to, and thus became very important in Rome’s Catholic history. It houses works of Raphael, Caravaggio, Bernini, and Donato Bramante.
Church of Sant’Ignazio Rome
This church is dedicated to Saint Ignatius of Loyola, who was the founder of the Jesuits. This church is simply stunning. The ceiling is beautifully frescoed and trompe d’oeil abound. Don’t miss this one.
You could spend a month in Rome and not see everything. It’s one of my favorite cities on Earth and rich in both history and culture. Yes, this post is heavy on Renaissance and Baroque art, but there is so much more to see while you are Rome-ing around the Eternal City (see what I did there?!)
Check out these other articles about traveling in Europe!