Visits to Vatican Museums fell by 5.6 million in 2020

A bronze sculpture by Arnaldo Pomodoro at the Vatican Museums A bronze sculpture, Sphere Within Sphere, by Arnaldo Pomodoro at the Vatican Museums. | Ank Kumar via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0).

The number of visitors to the Vatican Museums fell by 5.6 million from 2019 to 2020 due to nearly five months of closure amid Italy’s COVID-19 lockdowns.

The Vatican Museums are consistently among the most-visited museums in the world.

More than 6.8 million tourists and art enthusiasts visited the Vatican’s art galleries in 2019, making the Vatican Museums the third most-visited museum worldwide, according to The Art Newspaper’s annual report.

The Vatican Museums confirmed for CNA May 20 that the total number of visitors in 2020 dropped to 1.3 million, an 82% decrease from the year prior.

Ticket sales from the museums provide a major source of revenue for the Holy See. The loss in ticket sales has continued into 2021 as the Vatican Museums have been closed on and off for the first half of the year.

The Vatican Museums reopened May 3 after being closed in January, part of March, and April.

Museums across the globe suffered closures amid the coronavirus pandemic. The Louvre in Paris and Beijing’s National Museum of China, the first and second most-visited museums respectively, both reported massive drops in attendance.

With the Vatican Museums’ reopening, visitors can once again see masterpieces like Caravaggio’s “The Entombment of Christ,” the ancient Roman Laocoön sculpture, and the recently restored Raphael Rooms within the Vatican walls.

The reopening this month comes as Italy has eased its coronavirus restrictions. After more than a year, all Americans are once again allowed to enter the country for tourism, if they fly on one of the designated “COVID-free” tested flights offered by American Airlines and Delta.

The European Union is also working on a “COVID-19 certificate” that would allow tourists to prove that they are vaccinated or have recently tested negative for the virus.

Italy still has a nightly curfew in place at 11 p.m. and legally requires every person to wear a face mask both outdoors and indoors, except when dining or exercising.

About 40% of the population in Lazio, the Italian region in which Rome is located, has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to the local health authorities.

The Lazio health commissioner reported 558 new cases on May 20 with 1,394 people currently hospitalized with the virus.

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