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Vatican Museum, Rome

The Vatican Museums (Musei Vaticani) are the public art and sculpture museums in the Vatican City, which display works from the extensive collection of the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Julius II founded the museums in the 16th century. The Sistine Chapel and the Stanze della Segnatura decorated by Raphael are on the visitor route through the Vatican Museums. As of November 2006, it was visited by more than 4,000,000 people for the year. The Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago. The sculpture of Laocoön, the priest who, according to Greek mythology, tried to convince the people of ancient Troy not to accept the Greeks' gift of a hollow horse, was discovered 14 January 1506, in a vineyard near the of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome. Pope Julius II sent Giuliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Buonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to check out the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner. The pope put the sculpture of Laocoön and his sons in the grips of a sea serpent on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery. The Museums celebrated their 500th anniversary in October 2006 by permanently opening the excavations of a Vatican Hill necropolis to the public.