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Vatican treasures to be seen 'under the stars'

Museums open Friday night for third year

11 May, 15:52
Vatican treasures to be seen 'under the stars'

(ANSA) - Vatican City - The lights are dimmer and there are fewer crowds, but a moonlit tour of the Vatican Museums does nothing to diminish the beauty of the galleries' vast collection or the Sistine Chapel.

The Vatican is opening the doors of its museums to visitors on Friday evenings during the summer for the third consecutive year.

"The Pope, as the bishop of Rome, wishes to offer the most beautiful works of art to his people," said Antonio Paolucci, the director of the museums.

"To be open during the evening means offering the possibility for families and friends to visit the Vatican Museums together." Many Italian and foreign visitors believe it is the best way to see its art treasures.

"It is a great initiative because it allows you to see the Vatican museums when they are not so crowded," said Klaus Heiss from Chile.

Strolling across the softly lit Belvedere courtyard, designed by Donato Bramante in 1506, visitors can appreciate the vision of Pope Julius II who asked the famous architect to link it to the Vatican Palace.

Julius II was also responsible for collecting one of the world's most prized collections renowned for its classical antiquities and Renaissance masterpieces.

Inside a myriad of corridors, you can marvel at 2,000-year old Egyptian sculptures, the Gallery of Maps with its vivid frescoes, and hand-made Flemish tapestries produced by Pieter van Aelst's School.

More than 30,000 visitors visited the galleries under the stars last year and it is expected to be just as popular this summer.

Australian tourist Sam Iredale, 23, said there was a different atmosphere inside the museums at night.

"It's better at night because you can appreciate the art when there are fewer people and less noise," he said.

Iredale's 24-year-old companion Annie Alexiou agreed. "Being inside the museums at night gave me a whole new perspective, it was eerie and quiet, and it made me feel like I was walking through the pope's home with him," she said.

Museum visitors can see the Raphael Rooms, once the papal apartments, covered from top to bottom in the finest frescoes ever painted by one of Italy's masters in the early 1500s.

The visit includes the Sistine Chapel where Italy's renowned Renaissance master Michelangelo spent four years painting the chapel's immense 1,100-metre ceiling before he was invited back 20 years later to create The Last Judgement above the altar. The museums will be open to the public every Friday night from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m until July 15. Bookings are required.