Museo Pio Cristiano Vatican Rome

The collection of the Museo Pio Cristiano section of the Vatican Museums in Rome consists largely of sarcophagi from catacombs and early Christian churches.

Museo Pio Cristiano Vatican Rome

Opening hours, entrance fee and address

The opening hours and entrance price of Museo Pio Cristiano are those of the Vatican Museums themselves.

History Museo Pio Cristiano Rome

The Museo Pio Cristiano was founded in 1854 by Pope Pius IX Mastai Ferretti, for whom it is also named. In 1963, it was moved by Pope John XXIII from the Palazzo Laterano to its present home. The biggest part of the collection consists of ancient sarcophagi taken from Roman catacombs and early Christian basilicas.

The archaeologist Giovanni Battista De Rossi, who discovered the Catacombs of Callixtus, among others, and Giuseppe Marchi, a Jesuit and scientist, convinced the pope to open the museum. It was also De Rossi who divided the museum into two sections (inscriptions and sculptures).

Of some of the sarcophagi on display, only the fronts or the lids are still intact.

The collection stretches from the mid-third to the early fifth century and is known as the most important collection of early Christian funerary art.

There is also an epigraphic section at the Museo Pio Cristiano, which is, however, open to scholars only.

Highlights Museo Pio Cristiano Rome

Jewish Inscriptions: These are mainly from the Jewish Catacombs in the Monteverde district, discovered in 1602 by Pietro Bosio in a vineyard along Via Portuense.

The memorial stone to Abericio, the bishop of Phrygia, dates from the time of Marcus Aurelius and was given to Pope Leo XIII by the Turkish Sultan in 1892. This is the second part of a three-part inscription.

The front of a sarcophagus depicting a beardless Jesus with 12 bearded apostles. This comes from the Basilica of St. Paul outside the Walls.

A sculpture depicting the “Good Shepherd” that was originally part of a 3rd or 4th century sarcophagus. It was restored in the 18th century.

The Sarcophagus with the Good Shepherd and the Symbolic Vine dates from the 2nd half of the 4th century. Jesus here does have a beard and is surrounded by putti harvesting grapes.

The Sarcophagus of the Two Testaments: Originating in the mid-4th century, this sarcophagus shows scenes from both the Old and New Testaments, including, among others, the oldest existing depiction of the Holy Trinity.

The Sarcophagus of the Two Brothers was originally intended for a married couple, but was later modified. It dates from the mid-4th century and is notable for the quality of its three-dimensional carving. The sarcophagus itself is the result of mass production, while the effigies were inserted later.

The Sarcophagus of Sabinus (early 4th century) with in its central part a praying woman and a blind man regaining his eyesight, sandwiched between the Miracle of Cana (where Jesus turned water into wine) and the multiplication of the bread and fish.

The oldest existing depiction of St. Paul’s martyrdom is on one of the two Sarcophagi of the Passion or Resurrection. Two Roman soldiers are depicted at the foot of the cross.

The Sarcophagus of the Traditionio Legis (4th century) shows Jesus handing the new law to St. Peter.

The Via Salaria Sarcophagus (3rd century) is named for the spot where it was found, a short distance from the Mausoleum of Lucilius Paetus. On it, the Good Shepherd and a praying believer are flanked by two spouses.

The Sarcophagus of the Spouses Agapene and Crescenziano (4th century)

The Sarcophagus of Jonas (around 300) with images from the story of the prophet who survived three days in the belly of a fish and is seen as a precursor to the resurrection of Jesus himself.

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