Minnesota History Center to Host Exclusive Engagement for Vatican Art and History Exhibit

For immediate release

Release dated: 
August 7, 2008
Media contacts: 

Jessica Kohen, Minnesota Historical Society, 651-259-3148, jessica.kohen@mnhs.org
Amanda Hooper, Risdall McKinney Public Relations, 651-286-6776, amanda@risdall.com

Minnesota History Center to Host Exclusive Engagement for Vatican Art and History Exhibit

Many of the works have never been on display or left the Vatican

One of the largest collections of art, documents and historically significant objects from the Vatican ever to tour North America is coming to the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul for a limited engagement beginning Sept. 27, 2008. "Vatican Splendors from Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guard" will present unique objects illustrating the Vatican’s impact on history and culture through 2,000 years.The timing of the exhibition commemorates the 500th anniversary of several significant dates: the building of Saint Peter’s Basilica, the founding of the Vatican Museums, Michelangelo’s painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling and the establishment of the Papal Swiss Guard.

"Rare, priceless, magnificent…words used to describe the Minnesota History Center’s fall exhibition, 'Vatican Splendors,'" says Nina Archabal, director of the Minnesota Historical Society. "This is truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Minnesotans to see some of the world’s great treasures, some of which have never before been accessible to the public."

Approximately 200 objects will be presented in galleries and recreated environments that enhance the visitor’s understanding of their historical and artistic significance. Items in the collection – which include tiaras; mosaics; paintings; works by well-known sculptors; papal rings and jewels; intricately embroidered silk vestments; precious objects from the Papal Mass; armor, swords and uniforms of the Papal Swiss Guard; and gifts to the popes from such notable figures as Napoleon and the Dalai Lama – are on loan from the Vatican Museums, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the Reverenda Fabbrica of Saint Peter, the Apostolic Floreria, private collections and the Papal Swiss Guard.

"The art and artifacts in this exhibit are doubly precious – because of their deep religious significance and because of their beauty and rich cultural heritage," says Most Reverend John C. Nienstedt, archbishop of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis.

Highlights of the exhibition include, Michelangelo’s compass and tools used in the building of the Sistine Chapel; works by Bernini, Giotto, Guercino and others; artwork dating back to the third century; venerated relics (bone fragments) of Saint Peter; the pastoral staff of Pope John Paul II and items from the election of Pope Benedict XVI, including election ballots, a ceremonial vestment and an actual white smoke cartridge used to announce the election of the Pope.

"Indeed, this exhibition is in itself significant, as it represents one of the largest collections of art and objects from the Vatican ever to tour North America," stated Monsignor Roberto Zagnoli, curator of the Vatican Museums."Many of these works have never before been outside Vatican City."

After the exhibit closes in St. Paul, the items then return to the Vatican, from which they cannot be absent for more than a year.

In addition to the rare works of art and historically valuable objects, visitors to the Minnesota History Center will be treated to special choral performances offered on select weekends throughout the exhibit run. The series is meant to inspire as well as entertain and includes both Catholic and non-Catholic choral groups. A special two-day performance featuring The Rose Ensemble and the Twin Cities Community Gospel Choir will open the exhibit Sept. 27 and 28. The choral performances are free with museum admission or a "Vatican Splendors" ticket. For a complete list of performances visit www.mnhs.org/vatican and look under "upcoming events."

Another program in October begins a three-part History Lounge series exploring the relationship between community and religion in Minnesota history. "Sacred Ground/Common Ground" on Oct. 21 focuses on Wakan Tipi Cave on St. Paul’s East Side and the ways Dakota Indians and East Siders are working together to reclaim a piece of their community. The 7 p.m. program is free.

All descriptive labels in the exhibit are bilingual in English and Spanish, as is an audio tour, available for a small additional charge.

Tickets for "Vatican Splendors from Saint Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Swiss Guard" can be purchased at Ticketmaster.com, all Ticketmaster locations including Macy’s, or by phone at 651-989-5151. Tickets may also be purchased at the Minnesota History Center box office located at 345 Kellogg Boulevard West in St. Paul. All tickets are timed entry and subject to availability. Advance ticket purchases are highly recommended. Tickets are $20 for adults, $17 for seniors and $13 for children (age 6-12). Children 5 and under are free with adult ticket purchase. Special group discount for 15+ tickets is available by calling 612-373-5665.

Hours for "Vatican Splendors" are Mondays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Wednesdays through Saturdays, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sundays noon to 5 p.m. For more information call 1-877-2VATICAN (1-877-282-8422) or visit www.vaticansplendors.com.

"Vatican Splendors" media partners are KARE 11 and Star Tribune.

"Vatican Splendors" is organized and circulated in conjunction with the Governatorato of the Vatican City State. The exhibition is produced by Evergreen Exhibitions in association with the Minnesota Historical Society. Objects in the exhibition are on loan from the Office of the Liturgical Celebrations of the Supreme Pontiff, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Vatican Museums, the Reverenda Fabbrica of Saint Peter, and the Apostolic Floreria. Additional objects are on loan by the Papal Swiss Guard and private collections.

The Minnesota Historical Society is a non-profit educational and cultural institution established in 1849 to preserve and share Minnesota history. The Society tells the stories of history through museum exhibits developed by the Society, traveling exhibits from other museums and organizations, extensive libraries and collections, historic sites, educational programs and book publishing.

Evergreen Exhibitions is a world leader in providing high quality, state-of-the-art exhibitions in collaboration with more than 200 leading museums and research institutions in the United States and internationally.