Cortile del Belvedere

The construction of Cortile del Belvedere was the initiative of Pope Julius II and Bramante who wanted to connect an ancient pontifical palace on the right side of St. Peter’s, and the palace which was built for Innocent VIII by Pollaiolo on the little hill known as del Belvedere. Pope Julius was a great collector of statues when he was still a cardinal. After he was elected as pope he carried all his collection to the Vatican. The Belvedere was one of the places that contained the pope’s several sculpture collections and started making the place more attractive and popular.

As a result of the demand to connect the two palaces, Bramante designed two long corridors which created a big courtyard. Pope Julius II was a great fan of architectural works and wanted to build something impressive which would enhance the grandeur of both palaces. Just as expected, Bramante designed a spectacular court yard which connected the Vatican Palace and the Villa Belvedere. He designed a series of terraces which were connected by stairs and had narrow wings on its sides.

Bramante was very innovative when designing the Cortile del Belvedere. The courtyard contained six narrow terraces which were crisscrossed by a central staircase that led to the wide middle terrace. The long wings on the sides of the terraces of Cortile del Belvedere are what now house the Vatican Museums and the Vatican Library.

The Cortile del Belvedere provided an easy and comfortable means of passing from a garden terrace to the palace court. Bramante originally designed the uppermost terrace as a garden ground but as a result of the small size of the house, he came up with another idea. He made another decorative erection of a garden structure within the colossal semicircular niche, with a loggia on top of it. This provided a spectacular view over the landscape and the entire city.

The Cortile del Belvedere courtyard was used for several occasions due to its spectacular design and atmosphere. In 1565, Pope Pius IV held here a festival event in honour of the wedding of his nephew.

The construction of Cortile del Belvedere led to several developments of outstanding structures in the Vatican City. As a matter of fact, the courtyard led to the establishment of the Vatican Library, Gallery of inscriptions, the Museum of Christian Art, the Gallery of Urban VIII, the Sistine Hall, the Pauline Rooms, and the Gallery of Maps, among others. These are some of the structures rich in the Roman Catholic Church history continue to attract many visitors from all over the world. Until today, Cortile del Belvedere still remains one of the greatest architectural works in the Vatican. The courtyard provides a spectacular view of the entire Vatican City and it houses numerous sculptures and collections.