Philadelphia Gets Rare Vatican Treasures to Accompany Pope Francis

Michelangelo's Pieta.
Photo: Wikipedia.
A projection at the Franklin Institute showing one of the paintings that will be included in "Vatican Splendors." Photo: David Maialetti, courtesy the <eM>Philly Daily News</em>.

A projection at the Franklin Institute showing one of the paintings that will be included in “Vatican Splendors.”
Photo: David Maialetti, courtesy the Philadelphia Daily News.

As Philadelphia prepares for the arrival of Pope Francis this fall, the Franklin Institute has announced that the city will also play host to art and other treasures covering 2,000 years of Catholic history.

The traveling exhibition, titled, “Vatican Splendors” will open at the Franklin Institute on September 19, and include around 200 items, including a relief sculpture of the Pieta by Michelangelo, a document signed by the artist authorizing payments to an engraver working on St. Peter’s Basilica, and a caliper he used for measuring distances.

A bronze cast of the hand of newly-canonized Pope John Paul II to be included in the 'Vatican Splendors' exhibition.  Photo: © Cittá del Vaticano

A bronze cast of the hand of newly-canonized Pope John Paul II to be included in the ‘Vatican Splendors’ exhibition.
Photo: © Cittá del Vaticano

“So many people who otherwise would have to travel to another continent get to experience firsthand the culture and art of the Vatican,” Donna Crilley Farrell, the executive director of World Meeting of Families, told the AP. The Pope’s visit is timed to the meeting, which will bring together Catholics from around the world.

In its latest edition, “Vatican Splendors” will include 80 objects that have never before left Rome. Visitors will be able to touch a bronze cast of the hand of newly-canonized Pope John Paul II, and see a reliquary said to contain the bones of saints Peter and Paul.

Recreations of catacombs and papal chambers will be on display; the AP reports that organizers are aiming for “a multisensory experience.”

Muslim sculptor Edin Hajderovac working on the walnut chair he made for Pope Francis touses during his visit to Sarajevo, Bosnia.  Photo: Reuters.

Muslim sculptor Edin Hajderovac working on the walnut chair he made for Pope Francis during his visit to Sarajevo.
Photo: Reuters.

The pope’s stateside trip is part of a busy 2015 travel itinerary. This weekend, he visited Bosnia-Herzegovina. In a gesture of interfaith cooperation, a local Muslim sculptor carved a wooden armchair for the Pope to use while celebrating mass in the capital, Sarajevo (see Muslim Artist Carves Chair for Pope Francis’s Visit to Bosnia).

While the exhibition does not appear to feature any of the current pontif’s belongings, Pope Francis did make headlines in September when one of his hats was offered on eBay for six figures (see Buy Pope Francis’s Skull Cap for $115,000 on eBay). The cap ultimately sold for a mere €89,050 ($99,900).

Vatican Splendors,” will be on view at the Franklin Institute September 19, 2015–February 15, 2016.


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