“In 1581, the Gallery of Maps was inaugurated under pope Gregory XIII Boncompagni, born in Bologna. He was a cultured and strict Pope during the Counter-Reformation, and he loved the Church, science, arts and Italy equally. He was the Pope who implemented the calendar reform we still associate with his name today.”
Following this introduction, in a 2016 issue of “L’Osservatore Romano” art historian Antonio Paolucci reported on the end of the renovation of the Gallery of Maps – a 120-meter-long “corridor” that is now part of the Vatican Museums, leading to the Sistine Chapel; its walls are covered in wonderful aerial views of various regions in Italy, each one completed by maps of the most important cities in the area.
Artists Girolamo Muziano, Cesare Nebbia, the Flemish brothers Matthijs and Paul Bril, Giovanni Antonio Vanosino da Varese and Antonio Danti decorated and frescoed the amazing Gallery between 1580 and 1585.
They produced forty geographical masterpieces that represent Italian regions as well as ancient and modern Italy, major islands (Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica) and minor ones (Tremiti, Elba, Malta and Corfù). Genoa and Venice, Civitavecchia and Ancona are also portrayed, being the country’s four most important harbors.
Paolucci, who at the time of his article was Director of the Vatican Museums, continued his evocative description: “Pope Gregory’s inaugural plaque reads, ‘Italia totius orbis regio nobilissima’ (literally, ‘The most noble of Italy and of the whole of the region of the world’, translator’s note). The adjective ‘noble’ was here used to recall anything that is beauty, variety, art, culture and history. The noble beauty of historic Italy, which pope Gregory XIII recognized and which we have the responsibility to never forget.”
Photos via: @Musei Vaticani