Vatican Gallery of Maps Rome

The Vatican Gallery of Maps is named for the forty maps painted on the walls of a long hallway in the Vatican Museums in Rome. The maps show the Italian regions and church possessions during the time of Pope Gregory XIII, who held the office from 1572 to 1585.

Vatican Gallery of Maps Rome

Useful information

For practical information, visit our page about the opening hours etc. of the Musei Vaticani.

History and Description

The maps were painted between 1580 and 1585. The maps of the then famous geographer Ignazio Danti were used as examples.

The frescoes on one wall show the regions along the Adriatic Sea, while the ones on the opposite wall depict those along the Tyrrhenian Sea. A map of the main city of each region is also painted. On the ceilings near each map significant religious events having taken place in the various regions have been depicted.

At the end of the hallway there are seascapes of the main ports in those days. These were Civitavecchia and Genua on the Tyrrhenian coast and Ancona and Venice on the Adriatic coast.

Lastly, there are two maps of the entire peninsula. The first one shows the ancient, the second “modern” Italy.

Curiosities

Some of the maps are upside down. This is because at the time it was not standard yet to place the north at the top of a map. The maps were painted around the time this was supposed to change, however. In 1569 the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercatur released a map of the world that became the standard for navigation. Since, probably because he lived in the northern hemisphere, he put the north at the top, this also became the standard.

Three of the maps show parts of the world that are not Italian. The map of the island of Corsica is there because at the time it belonged to Genua. Malta is represented because it belonged to the Cavalieri Ospedalieri di S.Giovanni (Knights Hospitaller). Avignon is there because at the time it was a papal possession.

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