Rome – The grand corridor of the Vatican Library

The way to see the most of this magnificent distance is to let your glance run along the sunlit marble floor as far as possible.

By the help of our map we know we are now standing near the northern end of the long western wing of the Vatican and are looking south. If we should look out of the windows on our right, we would see the Vatican Gardens; from the windows on our left, the Garden of the Pigna. Beyond the farthest limit of this magnificent corridor are the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s. These rooms nearest us belong to the Museo Profano or Heathen Museum, which contains the bronze head of Augustus, a fine work of art; here, also, is a beautiful head of Venus.

The cupboards or cabinets which you see on either side of the corridor contain valuable articles, such as Greek and Roman bronzes and oriental jewelry, and even the hair of a young lady found in her sarcophagus.

How the collector of rare old volumes would revel here if he could come and choose as he liked ! This section, and those beyond, contain in their numerous cabinets the Ottobonian library, purchased by Alexander VIII; the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, once belonging to the Queen of Sweden ; and the manuscripts of the Popes, their correspondence and copies of their public documents, as well as the records of the official business of the Vatican.

In these rooms also are the manuscripts of the Palatine library which the Elector Maximilian presented to the Pope when the town of Heidelberg was taken in the Thirty Years’ War. Here, too, is the Urbino Library, founded by the Duke Federigo da Montefeltro ; and one whole room is filled with documents written on papyrus.

On the top of all these cabinets are placed curious urns, lamps, statuettes and altar-pieces, taken from ancient pyramid and crumbling tomb and gloomy catacomb; while the walls and ceilings are frescoed with bright and glowing scenes from the lives of the Popes, and ancient mosaic pictures of great value, the so-called Aldobrandine Nuptials being one of the finest ancient pictures extant. The Appartamento Borgia, filled with printed books, is shown by special permission only.

Doubtless, you have observed the small tables, one in each section, upon which manuscripts may be laid when taken from the cabinets, and the quaint chairs placed beside them.

About half-way down this hall there is an entrance toward the left into the Library of the Vatican, the southern one of the two transverse buildings which connect this long western wing of the Vatican with the long eastern wing. On the map the two red lines connected with the number 16 in a circle show our next position in the library.