Spiral Staircase at the Vatican Museum: One of the most photographed stairways in the world

December 06, 2012 2 min read

A staircase has the ability to be more than just a portal to a different level of a building. For centuries, architects have been making artistic statements by incorporating visually striking and dynamic staircases into their signature works. Spiral staircases are by far among the most famous designs the world over as they provide those walking up them a constantly changing view, while those viewing the staircase from below witness a design that is equal parts sculpture and utility.

One of the most photographed staircases on Earth is the Spiral Staircase at the Vatican Museum. This feature was constructed in 1932 after being designed by acclaimed architect Giuseppe Momo during the reign of Pope Pius XI.

The steps on this staircase are extra long making it almost more like a spiraling ramp than a set of stairs. Because of the structure’s gradual ascension, even elderly visitors with trouble walking have been able to travel its length.

Instead of incorporating balusters, the banister on this staircase is solid wrought iron with beautiful floral patterns inscribed onto the metal.

Momo actually designed the staircase in the form of a double helix, with one set of steps leading visitors down through the museum and another for those traveling upward. Scientists had yet to discover the double-helix DNA formation when the stairs were completed in 1932. Many architecture critics find it ironic that this form, which is now considered the symbol for the building blocks of life, had found itself in what is considered by many Catholics to be among the most hallowed locations on Earth seemingly by accident.

When the stairs were initially completed, they were on the main route for visitors who entered the museum every day. Today, however, tours divert the faithful on a different path through the museum, meaning most visitors miss the staircase entirely, unless they know it is there.

You can see the Spiral Staircase for yourself when you visit the Vatican Museum by simply asking a tour guide as it isn't far from the main entrance and is open for to the public.

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