"Cortile del Belvedere (Belvedere courtyard)" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Tuesday 10th January 2012
Pope Julius II and Bramante made a project to connect an ancient pontifical palace on the right of St Peter's with the palace, built by Pollaiolo for Innocent VIII, standing on the little hill called "del Belvedere". Bramante designed two long corridors between the palaces, so that they created a big court- yard. In the work participated G.d.Sangallo, P.Ligorio, O.Mascherino. In the meantime, Sixtus V constructed a palace for the Library, which crossed the big courtyard and made two little ones: Cortile del Belvedere and Cortile della Pigna. Later, when the New Wing was built, the third courtyard appeared, it was called Cortile della Biblioteca.
The Vatican Library (Biblioteca Vaticana). It was Nicolas V, who bought manuscripts from Greek scholars escaped from Turks after the fall of Constantinopolis, so by the time of his death the library possessed some 1200 volumes. Unfortunately this nucleus was destroyed by his successors, who sold those precious manuscripts for golden and stone decorations. Sixtus IV reconstructed the library and officially founded it. The library was pillaged in the sack of 1527.
Among the most important acquisitions were the Biblioteca Palatina of Heidelberg (1623), the Biblioteca Urbanis (1657), Queen Christina of Sweden's library (1690), the Biblioteca Ottoboniana, bought in 1748, the Jesuit Library (1922). There are now about 75,000 manuscripts, 8200 incunabula, 100,000 autographs, 100,000 engravings and geographic maps, 830,000 other printed books.
It is unknown if exists a secret section of the library with the loose or even pornographic books similar to those from Enfer della Bibliotheque National of Paris. Nevertheless, there is an underground section of the Library unveiled in 1985 and closed for the public, which is officially destined for 1000 of ancient papers of the highest value. Who knows what contains this secret store.
But officially exists the Secret Archives of Vatican, which was separated from the library by Paul V in 1611-14. It was destined to keep all the documents referring to the Church life and pope's activity from the beginning of the 13th century. It also has its special place 20m under the Courtyard of Pine-core with an air-conditioned system, which permits to conserve up to 54km odd documents.
Gallery of inscriptions (Galleria Lapidaria) (see above pictured). First floor, east-side palace. It is the most important collection of inscriptions in the world, was founded by Clement XIV and reorganized and classified by the epigraphist Gaetano Marini. It contains 4,125 Christian and pagan inscriptions from cemeteries and catacombs.
Museum of Christian Art (Museo Sacro). First floor, west-side palace. It was founded by Benedict XIV in 1756, and enlarged in the 19 century, partly by the acquisitions of Pius IX but mainly by finds made during excavations in the catacombs by G.B. de Rossi and his successor. The Museum contains Chapel of St Pius V, treasury of the Sancta Sanctorum, Room of the Addresses, Room of the Aldobrandini Marriage, Room of the Papyri, the room of early Christian Antiquities.
The Gallery of Urban VIII. First floor, west-side palace. It is one of the exhibition rooms of the Library. Here are shown astronomical instruments, sailing directions dating from the early 16 century, and the Farnese Planisphere (1725), given to Leo XIII by the Count of Caserta.
The Sistine Hall. First floor, north-side palace. It is named after its founder Sixtus V, and as built in 1587-89 by D.Fontana across the Courtyard of the Belvedere, which was later paralleled by the New Wing. Beneath the Courtyard of the Library in 1983 was constructed an underground depository to house the precious collection of Vatican manuscripts, and incunabula. The hall is divided into 2 vaulted aisles by 7 columns, and is decorated with themes glorifying literature and the pontificate of Sixtus V, with interesting views of Rome. Exhibitions here of the precious possessions of the library are changed annually.
The Pauline Rooms. First floor, west-side palace of Cortile della Biblioteca. Named after the pope Paul V and decorated in the Mannerist style of 1610-11. Here are displayed the largest and smallest manuscripts in the Vatican Library, namely the Hebrew Bible of Urbino (1295) and the Masses of SS Francis and Anne, decorated with 16C miniatures.
Galleria Delle Carte Geografiche (The Gallery of Maps). Second floor, west-side palace. The gallery 120m long and 6m wide was built in 1578-80 by O.Mascherino and decorated at the time of Gregory XIII, the reformer of the calendar, with 40 maps (32 bigger ones 320x420cm and 8 smaller) and plans painted in 1580-83 by Girolamo Danti, according the designs made by his brother Egnazio Danti the celebrated Dominician cosmo- grapher, architect and mathemati- cian. The maps represent 16C Italy, its regions and neighboring islands.
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