Enjoy 'Vatican Splendors' at the Franklin Institute

This limited-time exhibition coincides with the pope’s visit and begins on Sept. 19.

Recently announced: The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia will host the exclusive East Coast exhibition of “Vatican Splendors,” beginning Sept. 19. The exhibition, which coincides with the pope’s visit Sept. 26-27 and the 2015 World Meeting of Families Congress in Philadelphia Sept. 22-25, explores the historical and cultural impact of the Vatican over the span of 2,000 years through significantly relevant objects straight from the Vatican. Every object in the exhibition tells its own story, together forming a great historical mosaic of the Vatican. Many of the artifacts have never before been on public view at the Vatican. 

Highlights of the nearly 10,000-square-foot exhibition include artwork by Michelangelo, including signed documents and a rarely seen bas relief sculpture, and tools used in work on the Sistine Chapel and Basilica of Saint Peter’s; works by masters such as Bernini and Guercino, artwork dating back to the first century, venerated remains (bone fragments) of Saints Peter and Paul, relics discovered at the tombs of Saints Peter and Paul, and historical objects from the modern and ancient basilicas of Saint Peter’s in Rome. The exhibition is organized into 11 galleries that illustrate the evolution of the Roman Catholic Church, with thematic areas that highlight important developments, people and events tied to the history of the Vatican, reflected in both important historical objects and artistic expression from different eras.

The objects are presented in galleries and re-created environments designed to enhance understanding of their historical and artistic significance. Visitors will feel transported to the Vatican, from the underground catacombs where the remains of Saint Peter were discovered to the magnificent papal chambers found above ground. From the sights and sounds of the grand Basilica to a touchable cast of Saint John Paul II’s hand, the exhibition is a multi-sensory experience.

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“There could not be a more fitting exhibition to bring to Philadelphia this fall than Vatican Splendors,” says Larry Dubinski, president and CEO of The Franklin Institute. “Hosting an exhibit of this caliber during such a momentous time for Philadelphia and the world is truly remarkable. And for anyone participating in the World Meeting of Families or the Papal Visit and Mass, ‘Vatican Splendors’ will unquestionably add an unforgettable layer to that once-in-a-lifetime experience.”

The Franklin Institute is the only East Coast stop for the exhibition. “Vatican Splendors” is organized and circulated with the Congregazione per l’Evangelizzazione dei Popoli of the Vatican City State. Items in the collection include mosaics, frescoes, paintings by Renaissance masters, works by well-known sculptors, intricately embroidered silk vestments, precious objects from the Papal Mass, uniforms of the Papal Swiss Guard, historical maps and documents and relics are on loan from The Reverenda Fabbrica of Saint Peter, the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside-the-Walls, the Basilica of Saint Mary Major, the Vatican Library, the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, the Apostolic Floreria, the Papal Swiss Guard, the Vatican Museums, and private collections. Tickets are on sale now

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