Exhibit of Vatican artifacts draws a crowd at Cincinnati museum

Friday, March 05, 2004 - Updated: 12:01 am
John Franko, Staff Writer
A collection of Vatican art and artifacts is drawing rave reviews in a stop at the Cincinnati Museum Center.

With more than 350 objects, ?St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes? represents the largest collection of its kind. The exhibit will run through April 18.

More than 115,000 people have visited the exhibit since it opened Dec. 20. Museum officials expect that more than 200,000 will view it before it closes.

?The response has been overwhelmingly positive,? said Rodger Pille, museum spokesman. ?People are really enjoying the exhibits.?

Pille said visitors have come from areas throughout the Midwest. He noted the Pittsburgh area also has been well-represented.

Cincinnati is one of only four North American cities to host the exhibit. Houston and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., served as hosts in 2003. The final stop will be in San Diego this summer.

Many of the objects have never been on public view. They include a gold votive plaque found in the area near the tomb of St. Peter and the Mandylion of Edessa, an image of Jesus from the third to fifth century. It is considered to be the oldest known representation of Jesus.

The exhibit contains six sections. The first features a re-creation of the Vatican necropolis and includes fourth- and fifth-century oil lamps.

The next relates the story of St. Peter?s Basilica. Artifacts include a fifth-century fresco of St. Peter and a mosaic image of St. Paul the apostle from the ninth century. Also included is artwork by Bernini, with his fingerprints embedded in the clay.

The third section features a dramatic re-creation of the working conditions for Michelangelo?s painting of the Sistine Chapel. It also features a model of the scaffolding and two of his actual drawings.

Pille said the Sistine Chapel section has been perhaps the most popular exhibit.

Other objects found in the section include: the papal ring of St. Pius X; a 20th-century papal throne; and Pope Pius IX?s crosier and papal tiara.

The fourth section examines facts surrounding the altar of St. Peter?s Basilica. Liturgical objects found there include: the missals of Pope Leo XIII; a processional cross from the 15th century; and a papal chalice crafted in the 16th century.

A section detailing the work of popes includes cruets used by Pope Leo XIII.
The final section features a re-creation of the Holy Door of St. Peter?s Basilica. Artifacts include: silver and bronze hammers used at its opening before each jubilee year; a thangka wall-hanging, handcrafted for Pope John Paul II by the Dalai Lama; and the pastoral staffs of Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.

The self-guided tour takes almost two hours to complete. Group and school discounts are available, but visitors are strongly urged to purchase tickets in advance.

The exhibit is open Monday-Thursday from 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. and Sunday from 11 a.m.-6 p.m.

Admission, which includes an audio tour, is $18.50 for adults, $9.50 for children (3-12) and $13.50 for seniors (60+). Adult group tickets (15 or more) are available for $13.50. School group tickets are $6.50 per student.

The Cincinnati Museum Center is approximately a five-hour drive from Downtown Pittsburgh. Group information is available by calling 800-733-2077 or 513-287-7021, or by visiting the museum Web site at: www.cincymuseum.org.

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