Some Patrons’ projects are easier to sponsor than others; “Bringing Light to the Ancient World” has been on our list for the past couple of years and while we have some interest from major foundations to sustain the high costs of new lighting, we are still working towards the official pledge.
Yet, even with its significance, how many of us have really looked at this department? Not many, because it is closed to the public. It represents one of the most phenomenal collections of classic Greek and Roman art in the world, known to scholars everywhere. However, less known to the public is that it is also a major modernist architectural project for the Holy See, requested and sustained by Paul VI in his quest for a proper site for the collection. The year was 1973 and Arch. Lucio Passarelli and his studio won the competition for the building, which now includes the Ethnological collections as well. Using natural light, unusual apertures to the outside, stunning use of steel in the design of the mountings as well as reinforced concrete made to look like cut stone, the entire complex is typical of its time; yet while typical, it was seen as the ultimate example as it won the CEA (Circle d’Etudes Architecturales) Prize in 1975. See below a couple of vintage photos from the opening of the galleries that year. For all Patrons: let’s work together to light this collection and open it again to the public. It is indeed one of the undisputed jewels of the Vatican Museums.