Pope Francis Appoints First Female Director of Vatican Museums

Barbara Jatta will be the first woman in history to occupy the prestigious post.

Barbara Jatta, Director of Vatican Museums. Courtesy Vatican Museums.

On Tuesday, Pope Francis announced that the new director of the Vatican Museums will be the Italian art historian Barbara Jatta. This is a momentous occasion as it marks the first time in history that a woman will helm the art institution, one of the most important in the art world.

The new director will take up the post in January 1, 2017, succeeding Antonio Paolucci, an art historian and former Italian culture minister who’s held the position since 2007. Previously to this appointment, Jatta worked at the Vatican Library, overseeing its collection of prints.

Jatta, a Rome native who has worked for the Vatican since 1996, will thus become one of its more powerful female administrators. According to the Wall Street Journal, Pope Francis wants to increment the number of roles for women in the Catholic Church, but the most important Vatican posts are still reserved for cardinals and bishops, and therefore male.

Jatta will be responsible for one of the greatest art collections in the world, which includes Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, Giotto’s Stefaneschi Triptych, Raphael’s Madonna of Foligno, Leonardo da Vinci’s St. Jerome in the Wilderness, and Caravaggio’s Entombment.

Gathering 54 galleries across seven kilometers, it is also one of the largest museums in the world, receiving around six million visitors in 2015, and regularly making the list of top 10 most visited museums in the world.

Accordintg to the WSJ, the Vatican museums represent one of the Holy See’s biggest income sources, making about $311 million in gross revenues and $41 million in profits each year.

The Vatican Museums became this profitable during Paolucci’s tenure, who managed to increase visitor numbers by up to a whopping 40 percent between 2007 and 2015, by implementing a series of measures that included extending the museums’ visiting hours, restoring some key masterpieces, and installing new air conditioning and lighting systems.

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