In 1512, Pope Julius II commissioned renowned architect Donato Bramante to build a staircase to connect the Belvedere Palace of Pope Innocent VIII to the city. Julius wanted to make a museum out of his predecessor’s “rooms.” Bramante rose to the task, building a dramatic spiral made of marble, in the form of a double helix. It was a huge hit and still is, although it’s off limits most of the time.
Over time, 420 years of it, the Vatican Museum with its fabulous paintings and sculptures became so popular a new staircase was needed to handle the crowds. In 1932, Giuseppe Momo was chosen to build a new stairway, modeled on Bramante’s, but larger. Both stairways draw the eye toward their center then spiral back, mysteriously holding our attention…we know this design, this Double Helix. It’s in our DNA.
Photograph by Brian Huang.