The Musei Vaticani originated as a group of sculptures collected by Pope Julius II (1503-1513) and placed in what today is the “Cortile Ottagono” within the museum complex. The popes were among the first sovereigns who opened the art collections of their palaces to the public thus promoting knowledge of art history and culture. As seen today, the Musei Vaticani are a complex of different pontifical museums and galleries that began under the patronage of the popes Clement XIV (1769-1774) and Pius VI (1775-1799).
The Musei Vaticani include the Gallery of Tapestries; the Gallery of Maps; the Sistine Chapel; the Egyptian Museum; and the Borgia Apartment, where Pope Alexander VI lived until his death (1492-1503). In 1973 the Collection of Modern and Contemporary Religious Art was added and inaugurated by Pope Paul VI (1963-1978) in the Borgia Apartment.