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The Treasury Museum of Saint Peter’s Basilica

The “Treasury Museum of Saint Peter’s Basilica” consists of the display of what is known as the Treasury of Saint Peter. It is essentially, therefore, a collection of liturgical objects, once used for the conduct of sacred functions in the Basilica, but now withdrawn from use.

It can therefore be said that the Treasury of Saint Peter was born along with the Basilica itself; that the history of the Basilica and that of its treasury are the warp and weft of a single narrative fabric.

Throughout the centuries the Treasury of Saint Peter has seen long periods of slow but continuous enrichment, interspersed, however, with moments of sudden and dramatic impoverishment.

The violent sackings to which on several occasions the Vatican Basilica, and at times the entire city of Rome, fell victim, led to the dispersal of the Treasury of Saint Peter. This occurred in Late Antiquity, at the hands of the Visigoths (410 A.D.), the Vandals (455) and the Ostrogoths (545). Further raids also occurred during the Middle Ages - at the hands of the Saracens (830, 846) and the Normans (1084) - and in the early Modern Age, at the hands of the Landsknechts (1527).

In more recent times, the Treasury suffered severe requisitions at the end of the eighteenth century, during the occupation of Rome and the Papal States by the Jacobins (1798-1799).

After each of these traumatic events, the Treasury of Saint Peter was always reformed, based on what had survived, thanks to the generosity of some benefactors who wished to leave the Vatican Basilica a tangible sign of their devotion to the Apostle Peter.

Since the eleventh century, the liturgical officiating of the Vatican Basilica - and with it the custody of the Treasury of liturgical objects, vestments and sacred vessels - has been entrusted to the Chapter of Saint Peter.

Until the beginning of the twentieth century, the Treasury of Saint Peter was not open to the public. The canons of the Chapter showed it to scholars or distinguished guests only upon request. In 1909, a first museum arrangement of the Treasury was carried out, consisting of just two rooms. Besides the liturgical objects, some other items linked to the history of the Basilica and some works of art were also displayed.

After a first extension of the Museum, in 1949 a more significant transformation occurred with a view to the 1975 Jubilee, the work of the architect Franco Minissi. The display criteria were completely revised, and the focus shifted to the emphasis of individual works, according to the principle of the “protagonism of the objects” on display.

In the years that followed, the museum underwent various changes and new arrangements, which further modified its layout. Fifty years after its creation and in view of the upcoming Jubilee, a new project for the redevelopment and enhancement of the Museum is being studied.

The Museum of the Treasury of the Basilica is open during the opening hours of the Basilica.

© Fabric of Saint Peter