Secret Room at the Vatican

Posted by on 12/6/2015 to General Announcements
On a recent trip to the Vatican Museum, I was fortunate enough to enter the place without standing in line for hours on end. I had seen the Sistine Chapel before, so I was familiar with the fanfare surrounding the ceiling fresco. I was most interested in what the fresco looked like after the restoration and if the brilliant colors that I had seen in books, were actually true to life. Both the crush of the crowd and the bright colors lived up to my expectations.

It was such a relief to cross over into the other half of the Vatican Museum, away from the long march towards the Sistine Chapel. The Pinacoteca houses a collection of massive paintings depicting every possible saint in their familiar reposes. One stop place for all things Saint Sebastian, Francis etc. While I enjoyed the empty halls in this part of the museum, the sheer size and magnitude of most of the paintings pushed me through the galleries, back towards the exit.

As I was making my way towards the exit, I noticed (almost by accident) a small room that looked like the entrance to a staircase. There were fragments of statues and marble plaques on the walls. As I glossed over these relics, I noticed a small door that led into a dimly lit room.

What I discovered in this room, I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Usually, if a door is closed in a museum, that means: do not enter. However, I was able to open this wood and glass door and enter the small chamber, housing a collection of icons spanning the past 500 years that had been collected by the Vatican. All of the signs were in Italian, but from what I gathered, these icons all originated from such countries as Russia and the Balkan states. The lack of explanation did not matter, because these images spoke for themselves.

The icons told stories of painting with limited materials, creating images of faith in secrecy and making small portable articles of worship. While I could comment on these beautiful relics, I will just let them speak for themselves. Enjoy!

Icon in a foldable tin box
Icon in a fold-out tin box

Small icon on wood panelJesus Icon

Gold leaf iconVirgin Mary icon



Lynne Rutter
Date: 12/6/2015
Marvelous! What a treasure trove! There is a unappreciated Museum of Christian Art in the Vatican, that people walk right past on their way to the Sistina; perhaps this was part of it.
Date: 1/7/2016
Absolutely stunning!
Date: 6/10/2016
Lora Arbrador
Date: 10/13/2016
Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I had no idea this existed.
Sarah Hughes
Date: 6/10/2017
I came across your A Secret Room in the Vatican Museum blog post and wanted to let you know that this is one of the most amazing discoveries I have ever made. Thank you for sharing!

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