38 Most Famous Vatican Statues (Indoor & Outdoor Sculptures)
The Vatican statues are definitely amongst the most interesting things on display in this vast museum.
Alongside art, maps, paintings, and other treasures, hundreds of famous and lesser-known statues at the Vatican are complemented with nearly as many sculptures. For the first-time visitor, it can be extremely overwhelming!
Here we will give you an overview of the best statues the Vatican has to offer so you can at least pick a few to see when you are there.
How Many Statues Are In The Vatican?
There are rumored to be 70,000 works on display in the Vatican! That's a combination of art, statues, sculptures, tapestries, maps, and many more.
Just how many statues are exactly counted within these 70,000 pieces is hard to say – especially as only about ⅓ of the works is on show at any one time! So the answer is we just don't know!
Vatican Outdoor Statues (Vatican Square Statues)
When you first arrive at the Vatican, your experience begins before you even enter. Don't head straight to the museums – take a minute to look at your surroundings from the outside.
You will be surrounded by external Vatican sculptures – you just need to look up! Here are some of our favorite Vatican roof statues and other monuments.
1. Pine Cone Statue Vatican
In a courtyard in between the Vatican Museums and the grand Sistine Chapel you will find the Pine Cone Statue. In Italian, it's known as the Cortile della Pigna, and the courtyard also bears its name.
Apparently, the pinecone used to be part of a larger structure from the 2nd century AD – rumor has it it was part of a fountain.
Other elements of the statue – such as the grand base – come from the Septimius Severus baths. So it is truly an ancient hodgepodge of parts!
2. Golden Globe Statue Outside The Vatican (Ball Within Ball Statue Vatican)
You can be forgiven for thinking that all the Vatican square statues dotted around outside are ancient. But that is not the case with the next one on our list.
The Golden Globe Statue is also located in the Pinecone Courtyard, but unlike its friend the ancient Pinecone Statue, it is a modern masterpiece. Designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro, the Sphere within a Sphere statue as it is also known, is a massive 4 meters in diameter.
As the sun goes down, the statue takes on a beautiful golden hue! It is one of the statues in the Vatican courtyard that you must see!
3. St Peter Statue Vatican
In the 19th century, sculptor Giuseppe de Fabris completed the amazing statue of St Peter. It guards one side of the steps to St Peter’s Basilica (on the other side you will see St Paul).
St Peter is depicted as holding the keys to heaven, with the inscription ET TIBI DABO CLAVES REGNI CAELORUM reflecting the story in the bible Matthew: 16:19 regarding giving Peter the keys to heaven.
This beautiful marble statue is worth a look as you approach the Basilica in St Peter’s Square.
4. Statues On Top Of Vatican
Lots of the buildings in the Vatican City are adorned with statues on the top. One famous place to look for statues is atop of the St Peter’s Basilica.
There are 13 on top of its structure, and right in the middle stands one of Christ the Redeemer. Launched in 1612 and taking 2 years to complete, a range of sculptors were involved.
You can spot John the Baptist and St Philip amongst other famous saints up here. Location – St Peter’s Square.
5. Angel Statue At The Vatican
Throughout the Vatican, you will see statues of Angels – both inside and outside. For example, if you are lucky enough to tour the Vatican gardens look out for the cherub angel statue.
However, one of the most famous angel statues in the Vatican was actually installed pretty recently. “Angels Unawares” has been on display in St Peter’s Square since 2019, and depicts an angel amongst a crowd of refugees.
The statue was inaugurated in time for the 105th World Migrant and Refugee Day. Sculptor Timothy Schmalz was inspired by the Hebrews verse “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares”.
6. Pachamama Statues Vatican
Some controversy hit the Vatican in 2019, when a series of Pachamama Statues were uncovered, blessed by the Pope and then thrown outside into the Tiber River!
These ancient amazonian statues were thought to be fertility goddesses, and those that disposed of them argued that they were a blasphemous contradiction of commandment to not worship other gods.
Supporters of the statues, however, argued that they were actually depictions of the Virgin Mary. Either way, the statues are no more.
7. St Bruno Statue Vatican
At St Peter’s Basilica stands a statue of St Bruno, completed by sculptor Michelangelo Slodtz in 1744.
It depicts St Bruno rejecting the position of bishop. St Bruno founded the Carthusian Order in the 11th Century, and is actually quite famous, with his image on display across Europe.
8. Our Lady of Guadalupe in the Vatican Gardens
This statue in the Vatican gardens shows Mary revealing herself in Guadalupe, Mexico.
Legend has it that she appeared on the clothes of a poor local, Juan Diego, in 1531. The statue shows Juan Diego showing his robe with the apparition on it to Bishop Juan de Zumaraga.
The bishop is dropped to his knees in awe. The Vatican Gardens are a pleasant place to spend a few hours, and offer amazing views.
9. The St Peter's Square Obelisk
How can you miss this huge statue that stands proudly in St Peter’s Square?
This massive structure stands at 25m high and was brought from Egypt all the way back in 1586. Just how they managed it is beyond me.
The obelisk is estimated to have been constructed in 2500 BC in the Heliopolis area in Egypt. That is absolutely insane!
10. The Armenian Cross
An Armenian cross, also known as a khachkar, is on display in the Vatican gardens.
This beautiful and ornate cross in red stone is engraved with Armenian letters and stands on one of the beautifully manicured lawns within the gardens.
Book early to ensure you get a place on one of the tours, as they are restricted in capacity if you wish to see the gardens and all its ornaments.
11. The Statues on the Entry Arch to the Vatican
As you enter through the Vatican Gate, make sure you look up. Just above the archway, you will find 2 statues by Pietro Malendri, erected in 1932.
Interestingly, these statues for once do not depict a religious theme. Instead, they are dedicated to Michelangelo and Raphael – two of the greatest artists of all time whose stamp is left throughout the Vatican CIty.
It is therefore fitting that a Vatican Michelangelo statue and one of Raphael flank the archway to the entry.
Vatican Statues Indoor (Statues Inside the Vatican)
Now for the main show, and one reason many visit the Vatican in the first place – the hundreds of amazing statues and sculptures on display within the Vatican Museums and St Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican church statues.
Let’s check out the best of the best.
12. Vatican Sculpture Behind Pope – Vatican Resurrection Statue
We’ve written about this statue before, and it deserves attention as it is a definite Vatican weird statue that needs to be seen to be believed.
The Pope is pictured sitting in front of it often. as it is located in the Paul VI audience hall. This odd statue depicts Jesus rising above a nuclear fallout in Gethsemane.
Made of bronze and completed by arctic Fazzini, it is surely an odd one and was completed in the cold war in 1977.
13. Pieta Statue Vatican
This is a hugely famous statue and one of Michelangelo's masterpieces.
It depicts Virgin Mary and is on display in St Peter’s Basilica. In the sculpture,. Mary cradles Jesus on her knee just after the crucifixion and prior to the resurrection.
Pieta statue was created in 1499 out of one single piece of marble block… it is lucky that Michelangelo made no mistakes as he worked on the masterpiece!
14. Apollo Statue Vatican
This statue is also known as the Belvedere Apollo and is a marble statue in the Vatican that depicts the Greek god Apollo shooting an arrow, after perhaps killing python the serpent.
Believed to be an original work dating back to around 120AD. Made of white marble and standing at 2.2M high, this masterpiece. Oh, and he is not wearing any clothes so you can see his… assets.
15. Laocoon Statue Vatican Museum – Vatican Snake Statue
You will find this famous statue located in the Octagonal Courtyard in the Vatican Museums.
It is actually three sculptures – of Laocoon and his 2 sons struggling with some snakes that have been sent to overpower them. It is thought to originate from around 20BC.
Interestingly, it was discovered without an arm and was later restored to its former glory.
16. The Thinker Statue Vatican
If you go to the Borgia apartments, you will see one of the world's smallest Thinker statues by artist Auguste Rodin on display.
The main sculpture – much greater in size – is actually on show in the Rodin Museum in Paris. In the Vatican, you can see a mini version that stands at just 30 inches tall.
The Sculpture is of a pensive looking man – he really does look like he is thinking deeply!
17. Julius Caesar Statue Vatican
This bust of Julius Caesar is thought to have been created in and around 30-20BC. The Vatican obtained the sculpture in the early 19th century.
Julius Caesar left a massive impact on Rome both politically and culturally, as did his son Octavian. This striking marble headshot of the old guy is a must see when you are in the Vatican Museums.
18. Statue Of David Vatican – Vatican Statues Fig Leaves
If you are looking for Michaelangelo’s world-famous statue of David, you may be disappointed.
This iconic statue, which celebrates David the Shepherds' win over the giant Goliath, is not housed in the Vatican! Instead, it is found in Florence.
The Vatican does have something to do with the statue however – the nudity on display has led to calls for a fig leaf to be installed over the genitals on the statue on occasion.
19. Augustus Statue Vatican
A bronze statue of Emperor Augustus – also known as Julius Caesar Octavian Augustus is displayed at the Porte D’Auguste in Nimes in the south of France.
But did you know that this is actually just a copy of the real thing in the Vatican? It has been rumored many times to have been destroyed or even melted down, but we can confirm that is not the case!
20. Constantine Statue Vatican
As you approach the grand scala regia – the stairs that form part of the entrance to the Vatican – you will be able to see the Constantine Statue.
When Bernini was reconstructing this staircase he added the grand statue of Constantine astride a horse.
The statue, known as the Vision of Constantine, depicts Constantine receiving a vision of a cross in the sky, leading him to conclude he would be successful in battle against the then pagan emperor Maxentius.
You can find this statue at the base of the stairs as you enter the Scala Regia.
21. Heracles Statue Vatican
In 1864 this bronze statue of Hercules was found in the grounds of the Palazzo Pio Righetti and gifted to Pope Pius IX.
It was discovered under a large slab of travertine with the letters FCS engraved on it. This means that the statue had been struck by lightning and the custom at the time was to bury it with a funeral!
The statue was restored and is now on display in the Vatican Museums.
22. Artemis Statue Vatican Museum
The statue of Artemis (also known as Diana the huntress) in the Vatican Museum is a depiction of the Greek goddess Artemis.
Her Roman goddess equivalent is Diana. But Artemis is also known as the goddess of childbirth, as she assisted to deliver her twin brother Apollo. She is depicted with a bow on her shoulder.
23. Belvedere Statue Vatican
If you stop by at the Pio-Clementino museum in the Vatican you will see what at initial glance looks like a lump of rock.
It is actually a headless, armless, and legless statue created by the Greek sculptor Apollo. The statue has inspired countless works since it was discovered in the 15th century.
It is so influential that we have our very own article on it. Check out more here.
24. Nile River God Statue Vatican
This cool statue is a depiction of the river Nile in Egypt. It was discovered in the 16th century in Campo Marzio.
There are lots of representations in this statue – the 16 young children that surround the Nile are said to represent the fact that the Nile rises around 16 cubits of water annually when it floods.
Egypt itself is represented by a sphinx and the statue is surrounded by other animals local to the region. The Nile is located in the New Wing.
25. Dionysus Statue Vatican
Also in the New Wing is a statue of Dionysus, the goddess of wine. Here she is depicted as a baby, which is kind of weird given what she was the goddess for…
She is being cradled by her foster father and mentor Silenus. The statue on display in the New Wing is supposedly a copy of the Greek original.
26. Mary Holding Jesus Statue Vatican – Vatican Jesus Statue
We have already mentioned the Pieta statue up above – that’s the one with Mary cradling the body of Jesus.
But now for something a bit more upbeat. If you want to see a statue of Mary holding Jesus and you are around for Christmas, make a beeline for the nativity in St Peter’s Square.
This annual display changes so we can’t guarantee if He will be in His crib or in his mother's arms, but it is worth a look all the same.
27. Cleopatra Statue Vatican
The sleeping Cleopatra Statue is actually officially called the Sleeping Ariadne.
She lies with her legs crossed at the ankles and her arms supporting her head. There are several copies of this statue in various states of repair worldwide, but you can see this one for yourself in the Pio-Clementino Museum at the Vatican.
28. Hermes Statue Vatican
Also in the Pio-Clementino Museum within the Vatican is the Hermes Statue (sometimes referred to as the Belvedere Antinous).
Originating from the second century AD, we wonder why this particular Hermes is even bothering to carry his cloak over his shoulder, since he is otherwise butt naked…
The statue towers at 6 foot 5 tall and is missing one arm. The beautiful statue was gifted to Pope Paul III in the 16th century and can now be seen at the Vatican.
29. Fortuna Goddess Statue Vatican
As her name suggests, Fortuna is the goddess of luck and good fortune.
In the Vatican statue that depicts her, she is seen holding a ships rudder and a horn of plenty. This goddess can apparently deliver both good and bad fortune, so you better be nice to her when you pass her in the Vatican Museums.
30. Jupiter Statue Vatican
Verospis statue of Jupiter sitting down is believed to date to around 10CE. It was found near the Basilica of S. Agnese and eventually moved to the Vatican.
The lower parts of the statue had to be reconstructed in the 18th century. The statue is even more impressive when you take a look at Jupiters hair with all its curls. Just how Verospi managed to do that back then baffles me to this day.
31. Skeleton Statue Vatican
Head to St Peter’s Basilica and the tomb of Pope Alexander VII. He was the pope between 1655 and 1667, and his tomb represents some interesting symbols around death.
There is a skeleton apparent if you look closely. This, of course, represents death, but more interestingly, the skeleton's face is hidden. This is done to show that we do not know when we will die.
The morbid skeleton also holds an hourglass, representing that time on earth is limited.
32. St Andrew Statue Vatican
Did you know that Andrew was Peter’s brother?
You might not, or that he was actually the first disciple who went to follow Jesus. He missioned in Greece, and was purportedly crucified in an X shape, not the traditional T form.
Francois Duquesnoy’s statue to Andrew lies in St Peter’s Basilica where it has been since its creation in 1640. Andrew is shown in this statue looking up at the sky in front of a cross.
33. St Veronica Statue Vatican
In Biblical tradition, St Veronica is the woman who used a cloth to wipe the face of Jesus as he made his way to the crucifixion. She stands in one of the piers in St Peter’s Basilica.
More interesting, perhaps, is that in the loggia above, a scrap of material is housed. It was brought from Rome during the crusades and is said to be a piece of Veronica’s veil.
34. Athena Statue Vatican – Serpent Statue Vatican
Now housed in the Braccio Nuovo wing of the Vatican Museums, the statue of Athena – also known as the statue of Minerva.
It was found in the 17th century in Rome and has needed to be largely reconstructed on the helmet and forearms. Minerva was the goddess of war and justice. A serpent can be seen at her foot – she sent serpents to kill Laocoon’s 2 sons.
35. Egyptian Artwork Statues Vatican – Gallery of Statues Vatican Museum
In the Belvedere Palace, you will find the Gregorian Egyptian Museum. Here, a wide range of interesting Egyptian statues await you.
You’ll be in the mood for it since you saw the obelisk in St Peter’s Square. The museum was created in the 16th century under Pope Gregory, at a time when Egyptian artifacts were popular.
You can see the famous dog mummification Anubis statue here, as well as the beautiful Statue of Osiris Antinous.
36. Discus Thrower Statue Vatican -Vatican Statues Inappropriate
Another interesting piece of art – again to be found in the Pio-Clementino museum is the Discobolus of Myron.
A bronze man throws a discus The statue is believed to have been created by the sculptor Mirone in around 444 BC. Again, this one is not wearing clothes…
37. Todi Statue In The Vatican
This statue is cast in Bronze and is on display in the Gregorian Etruscan Museum in the Vatican City. It is 141 centimeters tall, which means it is practically life sized.
It is believed to date way back to the 5th century BCE! It is believed the warrior statue is dedicated to Laran, the Etruscan god of war. It is another statue that had been struck by lightning and had therefore taken on holy properties and was ritually buried.
38. Pope Pius XII Statue In Vatican
More modern statues often make an appearance in the Vatican too!
Pope Paul VI dedicated a huge 7ft bronze statue to wartime pope Pius XII. There is some controversy around this particular pope's reign, as he has been criticised for not openly speaking out about the Nazis.
On top of that, he had requested on his death that no statue of him be erected.
Frequently Asked Questions about Statues in Vatican
What are the statues on top of the Vatican?
140 statues on top of St Peter’s Basilica represent a range of saints and martyrs.
Is there a pagan statue in the Vatican garden?
Some pagan amazonian statues were on display during a service held by the pope in 2019, to much controversy.
Is there a statue of Moloch at the Vatican?
No, but the Vatican did have one placed at the Colosseum.
What are the statues in the Vatican made of?
The main materials used for statue construction in the Vatican are marbles and bronze.
What is the biggest statue in the Vatican?
The resurrection of Jesus statue stands at a whopping 66 feet (20.1m) by 23 feet (7m) by 10 feet (3m).
Out of 20,000 statues on display in the Vatican, we can only hit off a small number!
See for yourself the entire range when visiting the Vatican, and make it easy for yourself by purchasing skip-the-line tickets in advance!
Fanny, a devoted art enthusiast and world traveler, has been exploring Vatican City’s treasures since 2012. As the founder and chief editor of the Visit Vatican blog, she’s dedicated to sharing the finest cultural and historical experiences of this iconic destination.