The founding of the Vatican Museums can be traced back to 1503 when the newly-elected Pope, Julius II della Rovere, placed a statue of Apollo in the internal courtyard of the Belvedere Palace built by Innocent VIII; he brought the statue from the garden of his titular church of St. Peter in Chains. In 1506 the Laocoon was added to the collection, after its discovery on the Esquiline Hill before the eyes of Giuliano di Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Scores of artifacts were added throughout the next two centuries and the collections were eventually reorganized under Benedict XIV (1740-1758) and Clement XIII (1758-1769). They founded the Apostolic Library Museums: the Sacred (Museo Sacro – 1756) and the Profane (Museo Profano – 1767).
The Christian Museum, comprising finds from the catacombs that could not be conserved in situ, was founded by Pius IX in 1854 in the Lateran Palace and was moved to the Vatican Museums by Pope John XXIII.
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