The Gallery of the Candelabra – or Galleria dei Candelabri – is a spectacular hallway of Ancient Greek and Roman artworks featuring statues, sarcophagi, reliefs, and Candelabra. Entering into the Gallery of the Candelabra through the beautiful bronze gates brings you to the beginning of a spectacular hall of rooms that end at the Sistine Chapel. The name of the Gallery comes from the large marble Candelabra that are on either side of each of the six-section entrances of the Gallery.
The gallery of the Candelabra was originally designed under Pope Pius VI between 1785 and 1788 but it was later rearranged as we see it today by Annibale Angelini under the reign of Pope Leo XIII who lived between 1878-1903.
On the floor in the middle of the Gallery is a beautiful mosaic of Pope Leo XIII’s Papal coat of arms which the public are not allowed to walk on the to the blue lapis lazuli used in the design of the mosaic. Lapis lazuli is a very expensive stone that can only be mined in Afghanistan and is comparable to the price to gold.
The fresco-painted ceilings were painted mostly by Ludovico Seitz and Domenico Torti between 1883 to 1887 showing important 19th-century events that took place during the time of Pope Leo XIII.
The Gallery of the Candelabra is just before you enter the Room of the Tapestries and just after you walk up a small flight of stairs from The Greek Cross Room. You can take photos in the Gallery but you must turn off your flash due to the damage the flash can do to the fresco ceiling. Here are more tips for taking photos at the Vatican.
Unfortunately during high season this gallery can get quite crowded and you will be expected to keep walking making it hard to stop and admire a lot of the art work.
Works to look out for in the Gallery of the Candelabra
The Fertility Goddess
As you slowly walk down the Gallery you will notice on the right a very strange statue of an ancient fertility goddess known as Artemis of Ephesus. The Fertility goddess, also known as Diana, has multiple breasts (or some say bulls testicles) symbolizing fertility. She was a daughter of Zeus and twin of the God Apollo. She is also known as the goddess of the hunt and of childbirth. The date of the statue is unknown but she had a large cult following in ancient times.
Satyr with Dionysus as a child
Known as Dionysus by the Ancient Greeks and Bacchus by the Ancient Romans was the Ancient god of wine. You will always recognize Dionysus as he is usually holding or is surrounded by grapes. Here he is sitting on the shoulders of a satyr. A satyr in Ancient times was a drunken, lustful woodland god and a helper of Dionysus. Dionysus is holding the grapes in his right hand. This statue was found in 1854 at the Scala Santa (the holy stairs) by the church Saint John Lateran. The most striking thing about this statue is that it appears so lifelike mostly due to the fact that both Dionysus and the Satyr have marble colored eyes that seem to be real. In fact, statues had marble or painted eyes in Ancient times but throughout the years the paint has worn away or the marble used for the eyes has been stolen. The statue can be seen on the left as you walk down the Gallery.
The old fisherman
In the fourth section on the right in the Gallery of the Candelabra is a fascinating statue of an old fisherman holding a bucket. This statue is unique as almost all Ancient Greek and Roman statues have the figures anatomically and unrealistically perfect. However, this statue of an old fisherman shows him in a highly detailed and realistically frail manner. The statue was found in Anzio outside Rome and dates from the 2nd century A.D. It was purchased by the Vatican in 1773.
Boy strangling a goose
Towards the end of the Gallery also in section four, you will find a strange life-size statue of a young boy or a toddler wrestling a goose. Statues like these for an unknown reason were very popular during Hellenistic times. It is said to be a copy of a bronze statue by Boethus dating the 2nd century B.C. The Boy Strangling a Goose was found in the Villa Quintili in 1789.