COVID-19 Response

Following guidance from the California Department of Public Health and local public health authorities, we are increasing public access and services in a phased approach at Hearst Castle®/Hearst San Simeon State Historical Monument®. Before visiting, please review the COVID-19/FAQ tab on the home page. There you will find information and frequently asked questions regarding your trip to Hearst Castle. Updates about the overall Department of Parks and Recreation response to COVID-19, including safety information, are posted on parks.ca.gov. For more information from the San Luis Obispo County Public Health Department click readyslo.org

Hearst Castle tours and the Visitor Center is currently closed. When we reopen, advanced reservations will be required to visit Hearst Castle and/or the Visitor Center

San Simeon, CA.–After a lengthy process of conservation treatment that spanned several years, the Nine Muse Sarcophagus is back on display at Hearst Castle® in the hilltop location chosen by William Randolph Hearst.

This sarcophagus was carved around 230-250 A.D. The front of the sarcophagus depicts a young man with the Greek gods Apollo and Athena, along with the nine muses – the minor deities who inspired literary arts.   The sides depict scenes from The Odyssey.  The left side of the sarcophagus is a modern restoration.

One of the best known Roman sarcophagi in the world, the Muse Sarcophagus had once belonged to Prince Maffeo Colonna di Sciarra in Rome.  In 1811, he gave it to a cousin in the renowned Barberini family.  The Barberini family negotiated permission with the Italian government to sell and export numerous works of art, including the sarcophagus.

The sarcophagus was purchased at auction in New York in 1910 by William Randolph Hearst.  He installed it before 1927 at his magnificent hilltop estate at San Simeon, and it has been there ever since.  While it was in fairly good condition consistent with its age, the sarcophagus had deteriorated over the centuries.  Furthermore, during the years that it has been displayed outdoors, it has also been exposed to environmental stresses.

The sarcophagus has been cleaned and consolidated, and fragments that became detached have been reintegrated.  Other repairs that had affected the structural integrity of the sarcophagus were reversed. Eventually, the sarcophagus will be protected by a glass enclosure which will provide a controlled environment for this famous work of art.

Visitors who purchase a ticket for any tour of Hearst Castle can view the sarcophagus on the esplanade. Tour tickets can be purchased at www.hearstcastle.org, or by calling 1-800-444-4445.  Reservations are encouraged, as space is limited.

Reporters and Editors:  Photos of the Muse Sarcophagus available upon request.  Subscribe to California State Parks News via e-mail at info@parks.ca.gov or via RSS feed.

California State Parks Mission: To provide for the health, inspiration and education of the people of California by helping to preserve the state’s extraordinary biological diversity, protecting its most valued natural and cultural resources, and creating opportunities for high quality outdoor recreation.