Ethnological Museum Vatican Rome

The Ethnological Museum is one of the museums that make up the Vatican Museums in Rome. The museum was founded in 1926 by the then Pope Pius XI. Its original seat was the Palazzo Lateranense near the San Giovanni in Laterano Basilica.

Ethnological Museum Vatican Rome


Ethnological Museum, Vatican Museums, Rome
Ethnological Museum

The Ethnological Museum was founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926. The year before, an exhibition entitled “Universal Missionary Exhibition” had been organized on the occasion of the Holy Year. When this exhibition turned out to be an enormous success, the Pope decided to turn the exhibition into a permanent one.

Its original seat was the Palazzo del Latarano. In 1973 the entire collection was moved to its present location in the Vatican Museums.

This section of the Vatican Museums features works of art from parts of the world where missionaries have been active. The nucleus of the collection was chosen by a committee from more than one hundred thousand objects and works of art. Over the centuries the collection has expanded, mainly with the help of donations.

Since to collection is incredibly vast, there is a rotatiin system in place and the objects are not shown all at the same time.


Polynesian God Tu Statue, Etnological Museum, Vatican, Rome
Statue of the Deity Tu on the island of Mangareva in French Polynesia

On display are models of religious buildings of various religions. Examples include the Temple of Heaven (Beijing), the Altar of Confucius and a Shintoist temple from Japan.

Buddha statues are on display from Tibet, India and Indonesia, among others.

Other objects and artworks come from African and Central American countries.

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