CLEVELAND.-One of the largest collections of art, documents and historically significant objects from the Vatican ever to tour North America is coming to the Western Reserve Historical Society in Cleveland beginning May 31, 2008, for a limited, exclusive regional engagement. Vatican Splendors from Saint Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guard will present unique
objects illustrating the Vatican's impact on history and culture through 2,000 years. The timing of the exhibition commemorates the 500th anniversary of Saint Peter's Basilica, the founding of the Vatican Museums, Michelangelo's painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the establishment of the Papal Swiss Guard.
"Vatican Splendors is visiting only three U.S. cities, so we feel very
fortunate to have it come here to Cleveland," said Dr. Gainor Davis,
president of the Western Reserve Historical Society. "Since such a large
percentage of Northeastern Ohio's population has Catholic roots, the
Society felt that this exhibition meshed perfectly with its ongoing mission
to educate our residents about the origins of their history, culture and
traditions. People will be able to see some of the world's greatest
treasures without having to travel to the Vatican."
Approximately 200 rare objects will be presented in contextual
environments, such as the recreated tomb of Saint Peter. Items in the
collection -- which includes tiaras; mosaics; paintings; works by
well-known sculptors; papal rings and jewels; intricately embroidered silk
vestments; precious objects from the Papal Mass; armor, swords and
vestments of the Papal Swiss Guard; and gifts to the popes from notables
such as Napoleon and the Dalai Lama -- are on loan from the Vatican
Museums, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Office of
the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the Reverenda Fabbrica
of Saint Peter, the Apostolic Floreria, private collections and the Papal
The exhibition also features actual objects relating to the election of
Pope Benedict XVI, such as election ballots, patens and urns used in
voting, a ceremonial vestment and an actual white smoke cartridge
announcing the election.
"Indeed, this exhibition is in itself significant, as it represents one
of the largest collections of art and objects from the Vatican ever to tour
North America," stated Monsignor Roberto Zagnoli, curator of the Vatican
Museums. "Many of these works have never before been outside Vatican City."
After the three-city tour of St. Petersburg, Fla., Cleveland and St.
Paul, Minn., the items featured in Vatican Splendors will return to Rome
where they cannot be absent for more than a year.
"It is a great privilege for Cleveland to host this wonderful
collection," said the Most Rev. Richard G. Lennon, bishop of the Catholic
Diocese of Cleveland. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for all --
not just Catholics -- to see these awe-inspiring treasures and significant
pieces of art and beauty here in Northeast Ohio."
Highlights of the exhibition include a reliquary containing fragments
of bones of Saint Peter and a gold Votive Plaque found in the area of the
tomb, all displayed within a dramatic reproduction of the Tomb of Saint
Peter; the Mandylion of Edessa, a third to fifth century image on linen
considered one of the oldest known representations of Jesus present in
Rome; a mosaic Bust of an Angel by the 14th century master, Giotto;
personal items and tools of Michelangelo; an exquisite terra-cotta
sculpture by Bernini; the Papal Tiara of Pope Pius VII, the symbol of the
papacy, made of gold, precious stones, pearls, velvet and silk, and topped
with an exquisite emerald; a Buddhist Thanka of embroidered cloth and
pearls, given by the Dalai Lama to John Paul II; the Pastoral Staff of Pope
John Paul II; and a special presentation of uniforms, armor and weapons
from the legendary Papal Swiss Guard.
"This exhibition is about art, history, culture and the Church's legacy
over the last 2,000 years," said Mark Greenberg, president of Evergreen
Exhibitions, producers of the exhibition. "The Vatican has had a profound
impact on culture through the centuries by commissioning, collecting and
preserving historical objects and art. Vatican Splendors is a moving
tribute to an exquisite assemblage of art and objects associated with the
papacy and the historic institution of the Vatican."
Greenberg added that the exhibition is not solely about religion, but
rather a collection of fine and decorative arts that explores the Vatican's
influence on world history.