The Gallery of the Geographical Maps is one hundred and twenty metres long and represents one of the most fascinating areas within the Vatican Museums. In 1581 the then Pontiff, Pope Gregory XIII, commissioned the famous cosmographer, geographer and mathematician of the time, Ignazio Danti, to manage the ambitious project of depicting the entire Italian peninsula along the gallery walls. The friar was joined in the Capital by a well-known group of artists, such as the brothers Matteo and Paolo Bril, Girolamo Muziano and Cesare Nebbia. They decorated the walls with forty maps depicting the Italian regions and islands including perspective views of its most prominent port cities (Genoa, Venice, Civitavecchia and Ancona) as well as two fundamental episodes from the history of Christianity: the Siege of Malta by the Turks, and the Battle of Lepanto with the defeat of the Turkish navy.History seems to seep into the geography through the depiction of famous episodes from the past. Thus Italy is depicted from north to south, from Liguria to Calabria, from the Duchy of Milan to Puglia, with its mountains, valleys, forests and lakes, as well as through the events that brought about its identity and glory. Through an extremely vivid and detailed depiction, Julius Caesar is seen crossing the Rubicon River near Rome whilst Hannibal defeats the Roman troops at Lake Trasimeno.The same team of artists, who worked on the series of geographic maps, also received the challenge of painting the vault, on which the lives and miracles of the patron saints of each region are illustrated: from Ambrose to Januarius, from Agatha to Francis of Paola. The Gallery presents the visitor with an already modern idea of Italy, a country bound together not by politics, but by history, culture and religion.
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