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Vatican Museums opened the Santa Cecilia Pharmacy and Ceramics Hall in Rome to visitors for the first time. Albarellos and tableware are exhibited in these two new sections, which were opened after a long study, research, restoration and museum establishment.


One of the Vatican's hidden treasures, protected for centuries, has come to light. Santa Cecilia Pharmacy and Ceramics Hall, where antique albarellos (ceramic medicine or spice jars) are exhibited, was opened to visitors. The new sections, which are located on the route to the Sistine Chapel and can be visited by reservation, were designed with a long study, research and restoration.

Antique pharmacy was located in the Benedictine monastery of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere between 1560 and 1618. In 1936 Pope Pio XI transferred it to the collection of the Vatican Apostolic Library to prevent the collection from being dispersed. There are many albarellos in the collection, preserved as they were left by the Benedictine nuns.

Another of the new sections opened to visitors is the Ceramics Hall, which includes the Vatican's medieval and modern ceramic collection. In this hall, Istoriato-style plates, fine ceramic tableware, and majolica flooring are exhibited.

The albarello form came to Europe from the Near East via the spice trade and was quickly adapted and produced in large quantities by Valencian ceramists in Spain. Although different forms were seen in the 15th century, the most typical albarello form is the narrow-mouthed cylinder with a slightly concave middle. Models with stylized inscriptions meaning 'health and happiness' in Arabic were frequently preferred. Generally, brands and signs were not added to the vessels during design, but were written and pasted on parchment later. A few examples were written on with ceramic paint and glazed. These markings indicated the type of drug placed in the container.

The Italians, who were the biggest customers of the Manises workshops in Spain, imported albarellos and also produced them themselves. Medicine jars, brought to Italy by Hispano-Moresque traders, were first produced in Florence in the 15th century and continued to be produced in Italy until after the 18th century. The customers of albarellos, which were known to be produced in large quantities during the period, were hospitals and pharmacies. These were mostly affiliated with religious communities. There were also those ruled by a palace. For example, the great painter Tiziano was assigned to select majolica jars for the pharmacy of the Duke of Ferrara in Venice in 1520. It is stated in historical records that in those years, there were large drugstores with 500 medicine jars in Florence.


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