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Missouri History Museum hosts exhibition of 'Vatican Splendors'

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, March 23, 2010 - An upcoming exhibit at the Missouri History Museum of art works from the Vatican won't only deal with history -- it will make history as well.

"Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art" will be at the museum in Forest Park starting May 15 and ending Sept. 12, featuring about 170 objects in galleries and settings that are designed to increase an understanding of their historical and artistic significance.

More than 100 of the objects -- including mosaics, frescoes, paintings, embroidered silk vestments and uniforms of the Papal Swiss Guard -- have never been displayed on tour outside the Vatican before, said Mark Greenberg, whose company, Evergreen Exhibitions, is producing the show in St. Louis and later in Pittsburgh and St. Petersburg, Fla. Thirty of them have never been outside of Italy.

The objects are not allowed to be out of the Vatican for more than a year, Greenberg said.

Also on display will be art from the Cathedral Basilica on Lindell, Archbishop Robert J. Carlson said at a news conference Tuesday morning announcing the upcoming exhibit.


What you need to know

What: Vatican Splendors: A Journey through Faith and Art

Where: Missouri History Museum,

When: beginning May 1, ending Sept. 12

How much: Tickets will be $19.50 for adults, $17 for seniors and $13 for children ages 6-12. Museum members will pay $2 less per ticket. Children 5 and under are free with an adult ticket.

Tickets go on sale April 19 at Ticketmaster.com and all Ticketmaster outlets.

The exhibit will have timed tickets, and advance reservations will be available.


"I can't think of any better place to have art from the Vatican displayed than St. Louis, which has frequently been called the Rome of the West," he said.

"This will be a great opportunity for people of faith, but it is also a great opportunity for all men and women of good faith. What art does is it moves us beyond ourselves to transcendence, to be able to see the world as much larger than we are."

Robert Archibald, president and chief executive of the Missouri History Museum, said that the exhibition will allow visitors to experience an "immersion in sacred objects and sacred history," exploring the roots of the Catholic Church as well as the beginnings of our civilization.

"The church is embedded deeply in the very foundation of Western history and Western culture," he said. "This is an opportunity for everyone to explore their own roots."

Above all, Archibald said, it will attract "lovers of art and people who love beautiful things."


Highlights of the exhibition include artwork by Michelangelo, signed documents and personal objects including his drawing caliper and tools used in work on the Sistine Chapel; venerated relics of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, as well as objects discovered in their tombs; and works by artists Bernini and Giotto.

Descriptive labels in the exhibit will be in both English and Spanish, as will an audio tour.

Kitty Ratcliffe, president of the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, noted that the exhibition is timed for the beginning of the summer tourism season, which includes 300 million people worldwide who travel for religious pursuits -- an industry that produces $18 billion in annual revenue and is one of the fastest-growing segments in the travel market.

Pointing out that the exhibit will draw from the traditional areas such as Chicago, Kansas City, Memphis and Indianapolis, she said she expects others from farther away to come as well. Many of those tourists come by bus, Ratcliffe said, adding:

"Those people can't get on a bus and go to Rome, but they can get on a bus and come to St. Louis."

Typically, she said, one of the biggest summer draws in St. Louis is the baseball team. "We will have the Cardinals again this year," she said, "but will also have the popes."

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