Within the sprawling complex of the Vatican Museums, the Bramante Courtyard is easily identifiable by its famous bronze pigna or pinecone sculpture mounted on a staircase designed by Michelangelo and flanked by two sculpted peacocks, copies of the birds that stood at Hadrian’s Tomb. The Courtyard connects the main galleries of the Vatican Museums, and provides visitors with a central gathering area of the most theatrical, accomplished Renaissance architecture. The Bramante Courtyard is undoubtedly the heart of the Vatican Museums.

Restoration of the Bramante Courtyard - one of the most extensive, longterm restoration projects undertaken by the Patrons of the Arts in its thirtysix year history - commenced in 2016. Architectural restorers of the Vatican estimate that another two years will be needed to complete the labor demanded by the Courtyard’s restoration plan, which consists of removing the residue of previous treatments as well as layers of damaged plaster, reconstructing missing elements of the wall’s architectural moldings, re-tiling the roof, reclaiming the drainage lines, and installing a new lighting and security system.

In an unprecedented way, the 2018 Wishbook focused its fundraising efforts almost exclusively on the Bramante Courtyard. Thanks to the help of our Patrons, restoration work has been completed on the Nicchione North wall and is well underway on the Braccio Nuovo South Wall. Work has commenced on the West Wall pilot section. We are seeking funding fore the restoration of these last two phases of this monumental Bramante Courtyard restoration project: the East Wall and the West Wall, as well as the final lighting and security system.

The West Wall of the Bramante Courtyard originally housed the Vatican Library, and contains the Gallery of the Candelabra: the hallway leading to the Gallery of the Tapestries and the Gallery of the Maps. At the tallest point, the West Wall extends three stories high. The second level of the West Wall was originally an open air, intermediary space between the art and nature, until its opening were later filled in with brick. The West Wall was perhaps the most challenging aspect of Bramante's design, the architect faced with the task of connecting Belvedere Villa (the North Nicchione Wall of the Courtyard) to the Apostolic Palace (the opposing side capped by the South Wall Braccio Nuovo) over a sloping tract of land. As an accomplished result, one can observe the close scrutiny that the West Wall slopes downwards as it extends south, a factor that Bramante almost completely concealed with the implemented optical illusion of his design. It is also on the West Wall, near its northern entrance to the Courtyard, that a large marble recognition plaque will be installed, on to which the names of major donors contributing to the restoration of the Bramante Courtyard will be inscribed.

The East Wall of the Bramante Courtyard houses the Chiaramonti sculpture gallery. Named after Pope Pius VII Chiaramonti (1742-1823) and located behind the East Wall, the Gallery displays hundreds of works of antique sculpture, and provides passage from the Nicchione to the Braccio Nuovo sculpture gallery behind the South Wall.

The restoration of the Bramante Courtyard aims to uncover another significant feature of the East Wall beyond its original color of facade: a large terrace and balustrade that sit on top of the Wall, but are currently hidden from view and from use by a modern roof construction. During Bramante’s time, this space was used for open-air gathering and repose by the Pontiffs. Vatican restorers hope to recover this terrace by removing the modern roof and walls that have hidden this terrace away from public view, thereby bringing back another key component of Bramante’s original design.

Thus far, the Patrons of the Arts has raised funding to cover the North Wall (Nicchione), the South Wall (Braccio Nuovo), and a small “pilot” section of the West Wall (Library). We are still in need of funding for the restoration of the East and West Walls of the project as well as the final lighting and security system. Our fundraising efforts to date are summarized as follows:

Bramante Courtyard Funding Update as of Dec 31, 2018

Total Cost (with lighting system included) £7,700,000.00>
Money Received £2,156,339.91
Pledges to Receive £2,846,968.69
Funding Still Needed £2,696,691.40