Sphere within a Sphere in the Vatican Museums

The Vatican Museums has one of the oldest collections of art in the world dating back to the Ancient Egyptians. However, the Vatican also has a very important collection of contemporary art, so modern that you should not be surprised if a small number of these modern artists are still alive today.

One of these living artists whose work is on display in the Vatican museums is the 93-year-old Arnaldo Pomodoro. His bronze Sphere within a Sphere known in Italian as Sfera con Sfera is a very striking bronze sculpting in the Pine Cone Courtyard (Cortile della Pigna) on display in an outdoor area within the Vatican Museums.

Arnaldo Pomodoro artwork sign

Arnaldo Pomodoro is an Italian sculpture, born in Morciano, Romagna on the 23rd of June, 1926. He was a huge admirer of Picasso and attended the Art Institute in Pesaro. In the 1960s, he created a number of spheres of different sizes where the outer sphere is cracked to reveal a smaller sphere inside. It is believed that the inner sphere depicts our world with the outer sphere depicting the Christian world with many fractures or cracks symbolizing the fractures in our world and the Christian world today.

famous globe sculpture at the Vatican

Originally the Sphere within a Sphere was intended for the Vatican but Pomodoro created numerous versions, all in different sizes. They can be seen on display today in places including The Vatican Museums, Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, The U.N Headquarters in New York, Mt. Sinai hospital in New York, Tel Aviv University in Isreal, University of California, Berkley U.S, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts U.S, Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art Iowa U.S, Columbus Museum of Art, Iowa, De Young Museum in San Francisco U.S, Hirshhorn Museum in the sculpture garden in Washington D.C and the Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis U.S.

Pomodoro’s Sphere within a Sphere in the Vatican Museums is one of the largest he ever created, measuring 13 feet (4 meters) in diameter. When I was giving tours of the Vatican, there was always a debate among guides as to if you were allowed to spin Pomodoro’s sphere where some of the more rebellious tour guides and tourists took a chance. Some days the security shrugged their shoulders while on other days you would receive a finger-wagging or even a telling off. Spinning the enormous sphere took a lot of strength but once it was spun you would still see the piece going circling 20 minutes later.

people in the pine cone courtyard at the Vatican

Finding Arnaldo Pomodoro’s global sculpture inside the Vatican Museums isn’t difficult and you can not miss it if you are making your way to the Sistine Chapel. Once you enter the museums, you first go through security and then arrive at the ticket booths where you purchase and scan your ticket (or redeem your skip the line tickets). At this point, straight in front of you is a large escalator that you must take up. Once you reach the top, you turn left along with the rest of the crowd. You will enter into a spectacular courtyard, know as the Pine Cone Courtyard or in Italian, Cortile della Pigna. In the center of this courtyard, you will see Pomodoro’s huge bronze Sphere and be able to admire and contemplate its symbolism for yourself.