As seen on the Franklin Institute Website:
Experience 2,000 years of Vatican history at The Franklin Institute. See more than 200 works of art and historically significant objects that together form a great mosaic of the history of the Roman Catholic Church and its impact on art, history, and culture. From the sights and sounds of the grand Basilica to a touchable cast of Saint John Paul II’s hand, embark on a journey through the ages of artistic expression and religious iconography.
Explore the 11 galleries of art and history in Vatican Splendors
1. Early Christian Dialogue Between Faith and Art
This gallery features a representation of Saint Peter’s tomb as it appeared in 160 A.D. The original tomb is located beneath the Vatican Grottoes. The altar of the Basilica of Saint Peter is located over this site.
It also provides insight into Emperor Constantine’s declaration in 312 A.D. that Christianity would be legal. As a result, Roman Christians no longer had to practice their faith in secret, and Christian art began to flourish.
Marble Urn of Trebellena – This funerary urn was found near Saint Peter’s grave.
2. The Rise of Christian Rome
This gallery explores the Middle Ages and Byzantium period when Rome grew as a Christian city fostered by the papacy.
Reliquary of Saint Peter, Pail, Anne, Joseph, and Others – This gold and silver reliquary contains bones that for centuries have been believed to belong to Saint Peter, Saint Paul, and several other saints.
3. The Renaissance
Visitors learn how Christian art drew upon the art of Ancient Rome for inspiration, and the style created that combined Christian and non-Christian images. During this period, the Ancient Basilica was in extreme disrepair; however, the Filarete Doors—the ornate entry to the Ancient Basilica—were saved and used in the newer Basilica.
Madonna of the Chair – Raphael’s painting of Mary embracing the child Christ became a model for depictions of the Virgin Mary.
Visitors enter through the half-scale model of the Filarete Doors to see the Cast of the “Pietà” that is in Saint Peter’s (cast 1975 made of 1932 copy of original 1499), as well as a bas relief Pietà created by Michelangelo. This section explores the fiery relationship between Pope Julius II and Michelangelo during the painting of the Sistine Chapel.
Sistine Chapel Workspace – In order to undertake his commission to paint the Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo first had to devise a way to lift himself up to the 60-foot ceiling. This is a replica of his workspace.
5. The Renaissance Basilica
In 1506, Pope Julius authorized the construction of a new Saint Peter’s Basilica. Michelangelo was one of many architects who worked on the new building. The famed artist Bernini also contributed much to the new basilica, as well as to the city of Rome as architect, painter and sculptor. He decorated the interior in Baroque style.
Two Angels – These sculptures were created by the apprentice of Gian Bernini, chief architect of the Church in 1629.
6. Art in the Service of Faith
During the period in which the Renaissance was at its height, the Protestant Reformation was born, and the Catholic Reformation followed. The Council of Trent met from 1545 to 1563 and established guidelines that art should be created in the service of faith and deliver the message of Christianity in ways accessible to ordinary people. This gallery presents this story with objects developed during this period of change.
Statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul – Made of gilt metal, these statues were created for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Vatican City.
7. The Art of the Liturgy
As ritual instruments essential to the adoration of God, liturgical objects (implements used in the celebration of the Mass) are often rich and splendid. Artists have seized the opportunity to create objects that are as beautiful and expressive as they are durable and practical. Objects rich in decorative art are presented in this area. Stories relating to this artwork, centered around historical figures such as Napoleon, are presented here.
Liturgy Ceremony – Liturgical and ceremonial objects are often cherished objects of art. As ritual instruments essential to the adoration of God, they are often rich and splendid.
8. Dialogue with the World
For centuries, the Roman Catholic Church has engaged the world through missionary outreach, teaching activities and religious dialogue with both Christians and non-Christians. The Roman Catholic Church’s interaction with the world’s diverse societies and religions are reflected in devotional art, most commonly provided as gifts to the Vatican, over many years.
Mercator Projection – This map shows the revolutionary work of Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, the leading map maker of the 16th century.
9. The Successors of Peter—Papal Portraiture
Popes are traced back to the apostles of Jesus, particularly Peter, who is recognized as the first pope. Over a span encompassing most of the 2000 years of the papacy, a very large repertoire of papal portraits, over a variety of media, have been collected and conserved. Early pontiffs were portrayed in mosaics, in frescos, and on sarcophagi. In the Middle Ages, long before the invention of the printing press, Christians wanted pictures of the pope. The tradition of portraiture was begun by John VII (705 – 707), who commissioned images of himself for churches. Later, popes became the subjects of paintings and sculptures and, eventually, photographs. Today, unlimited images of the pope are available in magazines and books, on television, through the Internet, and in reproductions on many different objects.
Bust of Madonna – This plaster bust of the Virgin Mary was a gift to Pius XII who kept it in his study.
10. Art and the Contemporary Papacy
From its humble beginnings, the Vatican collections now span 4,500 years with objects dating back to ancient Egypt and Assyria, through the European Renaissance and Baroque eras, and forward to the present day. For hundreds of years, the Roman Catholic Church has collected, sponsored and conserved buildings, frescos, paintings, sculptures, liturgical instruments and other works. A broad collection of these works are presented in this gallery.
Votive Lamp Given by Saint John Paul II in 1988 – This votive lamp was given to the Basilica of Saint Mary Major for this purpose by Saint John Paul II.
11. Saint John Paul II (1978-2005)
Gallery showcases objects belonging to or presentes by Saint John Paul II and helps make clear the Steps to Sainthood.
Bronze Cast of the Hand of Saint John Paul II – This cast of Saint John Paul II hand symbolizes his act of love and respect, and his desire for dialogue and forgiveness.
Other Notable Exhibit Artifacts:
Sistine Chapel Construction: Metal clamps and nail from the scaffolding using during frescoing of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Book About Saint Francis Xavier: Early seventeenth century book in the language of Tamil.
Glass Medallion of Saints Peter & Paul: Medallion from the fourth century.
Cope of Saint Charles Borromeo: Late sixteenth century liturgical vestment, a cloak/mantle worn by a priest during liturgy.
Roman Missal with Silver Binding: From 1700, the missal—the book used during Catholic liturgy—is considered sacred.
Chalice of Saint John Paul II, Ciborium of Saint John Paul II, Paten of Saint John Paul II: The three vessels held the bread and wine that Pope John Paul II consecrated during the holy sacrifice of the Eucharist.
Disclaimer: In exchange for this post, the FI has given my family 4 tickets to enjoy the exhibit ourselves, plus 4 to give away to one lucky Delaware County Moms.com winner. All opinions are my own.