One of the most beautiful and evocative parts of the Vatican Museums is certainly the long corridor of 120 meters in length and six in width that leads to the Sistine Chapel adorned with geographical maps.

The Gallery of geographic maps, commissioned by Pope Gregory XIII, was built between 1580 and 1585. The frescoes were made by Italian and Flemish artists under the direction of Ignazio Danti, mathematician, astronomer and cosmographer.

The walls of the gallery are covered with forty geographical maps of the various Italian regions, with maps of the main cities. In the ceiling adjacent to each region there are representations of the main religious events that took place in it.

At the end of the gallery there are frescoes of the main Italian ports of the sixteenth century: Civitavecchia, Genoa, Ancona and Venice.

The layout of the maps follows an ideal itinerary along the Apennines with the Tyrrhenian regions on the left walls and the Adriatic ones on the right walls.

Vatican Gallery of Maps in Rome

The peculiarity of some maps is that some appear to the visitor as upside down because in the sixteenth century it was not a convention to place the north in the upper part of the map.

The Vatican Gallery of Geographical Maps symbolically wants to represent spiritual as well as geographical unity.

The maps that make up the cartographic route are:

  • two maps for Puglia (Salento Peninsula and Gargano and Tavoliere);
  • a map for Abruzzo;
  • three maps for the Marche (Piceno, Agro di Ancona and Ducato di Urbino);
  • four maps for Emilia Romagna (Flaminia, Duchy of Ferrara, countryside of Bologna, Duchy of Parma and Piacenza);
  • four maps for Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto Adige and Lombardy;
  • a map for Piedmont;
  • a map for Liguria;
  • two maps for Tuscany (Etruria and Elba);
  • two maps for Umbria (Agro Perugino and Agro Spoletino);
  • two maps for Lazio (Heritage of San Pietro, Lazio and Sabina)
  • two maps for Campania (Campania and the Principality of Salerno);
  • a map for Basilicata;
  • two maps for Calabria (Calabria Hither and Calabria Ulterior)
  • a map for Sicily;
  • a map for Sardinia;
  • a map for Corsica, then Genoese dominion;
  • a map for Malta, then the domain of the Knights Hospitallers of St. John.

Furthermore, there is a map of the "Territory of Avignon", a French locality then belonging to the pontiff and two large general maps depicting ancient Italy and modern Italy.

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