The Pius Christian Museum houses the largest collection of early Christian sculptures in existence. The exhibition winds through the large rooms of the ‘Pauline Museum’, designed between 1964 and 1966 by the prestigious Passarelli Studio Architects to house the works that had been transferred to the Vatican from the Lateran Museum in the 19th century.
The Pius Christian Museum has four different levels that allow visitors to enjoy some of the major masterpieces of Christian sarcophagi, and offers picturesque views over the surrounding areas. For example, inside the museum one can either look down, to an area below Gregorian Profane Museum with excellent late antique mosaics from the Baths of Caracalla, or look to the outside world, the Vatican Gardens dominated by St. Peter’s Basilica.
To allow all the visitors to enjoy the collection regardless of physical ability, measures have been taken to eliminate architectural barriers by installing special ramps that remain at a constant slope. In one case this was not possible and, in 2004, the original stairs were fitted with an electric stair lift thanks to the generosity of the Pennsylvania Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. After more than ten years of assisting thousands to comfortably visit the museum, the stair lift continues to perform its function. Lately, however, the wear of continuous use and defects in the mechanism, have made it necessary to replace the existing stair lift with a new, upgraded, and versatile model that will continue to guarantee all visitors have the opportunity to access the Pius Christian Museum.