A few weeks ago I posted a story about the Reagan Presidential Library.  At the time of my visit there was a special event showcasing items from the Vatican.  I didn’t mention it because the show was slated to close near the end of August.  Now I discover that it has been extended through September 11th .   I believe I did mention how busy and crowded the library was on the day of my visit.  Surely this was owing to the popularity of  Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art.  As a result of the extension I thought I would share a bit of my  “Vatican Viewing.”

This special exhibit is the first time the western United States has had the opportunity to host a Vatican exhibit.  There is a lot to see so plan to take your time.  The pieces on display illustrate some of the key moments in the history of the Vatican and the Catholic faith, and so the story rightly begins with the transition from pagan to Christian Rome.  It is definitely illustrated in this image below; I like this sarcophagus lid.

Sarcophagus Lid from Vatican Splendors

Sarcophagus Lid from Vatican Splendors

It’s from the 4th century AD and hearkens back to Roman Art yet the story is certainly Christian. For purposes of full disclosure I should mention that I studied Latin and Classical Archaeology while in college and have soft spot for those ancient Romans.

I like this next piece as well.  This is a cast of the lower right panel of on the huge bronze doors of the Old St. Peter’s Basilica.   The original doors were made in the 15th century by a sculptor from Florence named Filarete.  There is so much detail in this panel!

Cast of a Panel from Filarete's Bronze Door

Cast of a Panel from Filarete’s Bronze Door

The exhibition is on two levels and you can move along at your own pace looking at the paintings and statues.  It continues to follow a chronological order and talks about the popes, the church, and the history of each period.  There’s even a scene to give one the sense of stepping into the Sistine Chapel!

Not everything is a cast; there are authentic items, all carefully secured.  The image below is a display of papal objects from a more recent period, the 19th and 20th centuries.  The papal throne was used by Pope Pius XI.  To the each side is a Monstrance which holds the consecrated wafer or host.  This sunburst design is often used.

Golden items, and a papal throne

Original Papal Items on Display for Vatican Splendors

What can I say?  This exhibit is packed with glorious beauty, interesting history, and stunning art created by famous masters such as Bernini and Michelangelo.  In a few days these items will all return to the Vatican.  This is a marvelous chance to see them up close right here in California.  An adult admission to the library when purchased online (I just tried this) includes admission to the Vatican exhibit.  Hope you have a chance to drive out to Simi Valley and see it all.


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