The Vatican Museums receive as a gift the notebooks of one of its most illustrious directors: Bartolomeo Nogara

Wednesday May 2nd, 2018

On Wednesday May 2nd, thanks to the gift from Baroness Rosanella Lello Nogara and the ambassador Bernardino Osio, the Vatican Museums Historical Archive will receive 41 handwritten notebooks of Bartolomeo Nogara, distinguished Director General of the Pontifical Museums and Galleries from 1920 to 1954, the year of his death. At the moment of his appointment as Director of the Museums, on 1 October 1990, Nogara was able to benefit from a twenty-year knowledge of the Vatican cultural institutions: as Latin scriptor of the Vatican Apostolic Library and Special Director of the Gregorian Etruscan Museum from 1900, and Conservator of the Profane Museum of the Vatican Library from 1903.

He was the director who accompanied the Museums in the renovation process that followed the signing of the Conciliation between the Church and the Italian State in 1929, and in the structural changes that followed the birth of Vatican City State.

In his 34 years of service at the summit of the Pope’s Museums, Nogara substantially renovated the administrative structure of the Institution, guiding it towards a new and modern phase, aimed at planned conservation, grass-roots campaigns of cataloguing and inventory-taking, and functional planning of restoration. In accordance with this approach, the Research Laboratories were established from 1923 to 1932, and the Cabinet for Scientific Research and Applications from 1939 to 1942, still fundamental to the activity of the Museums. Under his guidance new arrangements for the collections were inaugurated, the Missionary Ethnological Museum was created in the Lateran Palace, the new monumental entrance to the Museums was realized and a special building was constructed for the Vatican Pinacoteca, designed by the architect Luca Beltrami.

The generous donation of the notebooks, in which Nogara wrote down the salient events in his long and fruitful service and his reflections from 1921 to 1952, offer to the Museums a new and valuable source for the history of the Institution, which owes much to the esteemed Director.

The Islamic art collection of the Anima Mundi Vatican Museum on display in Australia

19 April – 22 July 2018
National Museum of Australia, Canberra

Meshla (overcoat), Syria, Damascus or Aleppo, 19th century, tapestry-woven wool, silk and metal thread brocading, 850×960 mm. Vatican Anima Mundi Museums, inv. 112279. Photo © Vatican Museums

A verse from the Koran inspires the title of the exhibition to be inaugurated on 19 April in Canberra in the National Museum of Australia: “So That You Might Know Each Other: Islamic Faith and Culture”. This long-running project was first realized in the exhibition organized by the Vatican Museums in 2014 at the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization in the United Arab Emirates: an unprecedented event in which the Pope’s Museums, for the first time in their 500 years of history, exhibited their treasures of Islamic art and culture.

Bidri shield with Farsi poem, India, late 19th century, cast zinc alloy, silver and brass inlay, velve, 372 x 55 mm. Vatican Anima Mundi Museum, inv. 122028. Photo © Vatican Museums

From Thursday, until 22 July 2018, it will be the turn of the Australian public to be able to admire an enriched re-edition of the first exhibition, the fruit of an exceptional collaboration between three prestigious cultural institutions: the Anima Mundi Museum of the Vatican Museums, the Sharjah Museum of Islamic Civilization and the National Museum of Australia. More than 100 valuable artefacts are on display (dating from the eighteenth to the twentieth century), originating from more than 20 countries, from the Sharjah Museum and in large part from the Vatican Collections.

As shown by the exhortation contained in the title of the exhibition – “So That You Might Know Each Other” – and explained in the subtitle, the exhibition is intended not only to demonstrate the rich cultural and artistic exchange that has taken place over the centuries between Islam and Christianity, but also to adopt one of the priorities of Pope Francis’ ministry: mutual understanding and dialogue between different cultures, in the name of the universal values of peace and tolerance.







Nights of Art 2018: 20 April – 26 October 2018

On Friday 20 April the 2018 edition of the special night openings of the Vatican Museums will begin, offering until 26 October a unique experience in terms of atmosphere, artistic beauty and musical offerings, for visitors both Roman and otherwise.

From 7.00 p.m., for over six months for a total of 27 Fridays, the Pope’s Museums “double” their cultural offering with a new evening programme, greatly appreciated by the public, especially in the spring and summer season.

As in previous years, and again included in the price of the entry ticket, which may be booked online exclusively, an extensive concert programme will enrich the already special night opening, animating the splendid museum architecture with sound, song and dance.
So, not only art and history, but also a show, and why not enjoy the Happy Hour in the evocative Courtyard of the Pinecone for a refreshing break?






FRAGMENT OF A SARCOPHAGUS: Miracles happen every day

Each of the seven days of creation bears within it a multiplicity of miracles. At the center of it all, lies the remarkably complex creation of man himself—the receiver of God’s affectionate love and His most amazing miracle to boot. Though the relationship was sacrificed by the disobedience of Adam and Eve, God continues to unceasingly draw every man to Himself, and the promise of His Covenant with His people can never be severed. God’s covenantal love, or sacred family bond, is inherent within each biblical family.  God reveals to Noah that the covenant reaches beyond the family nucleus and “ is with [Noah] and with all his descendants after” (Genesis 9:9). Though others would not find favor with God and be swept away in the massive flood, Noah’s family mission is steadfast in guarding and communicating love.

The beginning of this perpetual covenantal story (which still, of course, continues today) is documented not only in the Bible, but makes its way into various early Christian artworks.  Interest in the figurative and visual arts of early Christianity reached its height in the 16thcentury, during the Catholic response to the Reformation and knowledge of early Church and her works became key. In the 18thcentury,Pope Benedict XIV (1740-1758) successfully organized a “Christian Museum” in the Vatican, housing those works that give us a glimpse in to the culture and faith of the early Christian communities in Rome. Established in 1852 under the papacy of Pius IX (1846-1870), the Commission for Sacred Archaeology insured the utmost protection for these rich archaeological pieces of Christian heritage. Two years later, in an effort to save precious pieces that were unearthed, Pius IX transferred the artifacts to the Lateran Palace in a collection he called “Pius.”  In 1963 the collection of Christian patrimony was moved to the Vatican, and became permanent residents of the “Pius Christian Museum.”  Every visitor upon entering the Museums can turn a corner and listen to the testimonies of Christian families and martyrs from the 2ndto 4thcenturies,etched in the stone sarcophagi in this collection.

This frontal sarcophagus piece is one of many that bears witness to the precious Christian artifacts, and the precious covenantal bond of God with His people is carved into them.  Here, Noah is seen sending out a dove to determine if, after forty days in the ark, the flood waters had subsided.  The dove touches the head of another figure, perhaps one of Noah’s sons, who carries a bastion that leads the eye into the next scene.  Three youths, refusing to worship false deities, sing the praises of the one true God afterthrown in the fiery furnace by King Nebuchadnezzar.

Lifting up their hands in prayer, they sing of their transgressions and the miracle of still being showered in God’s mercy.  They are unconsumed by the flames.  Noah’s family is spared from the flood.  One miracle flows directly into another.  The images decorate the tombs of the faithful who bore witness to the miracles of God in their own lives.

The next miracle is how the Vatican restorers brought back to life this piece of heritage and faith.This sarcophagus is a sculptural piece that had undergone maintenance, restorations and perhaps reworked interventions over time. During the preliminary “autopsy” of the work, certain findings helped determine the present state of intervention and “readability” of the piece.  There was evidence of coherent deposits and stains, either from exposure to less than desirable conditions, or from the hand of a previous attempt at fixing the piece. Wax or paints were used to cover damages, and these exhibited deposits resultantly compromised the integrity of the carved surface.

Generally speaking the surfaces of sarcophagi often show widespread exfoliation phenomena andscratches. In the case of areas where dirt and deposits are more heavily encrusted, thus hindering the piece’s aesthetic integrity, the restorers have to remove these deposits using diversified laser technology.  Oftentimes,Japanese rice paper will be affixed to the surface with a paste made from natural ingredients, which serves to stabilize the rest of the work while the area that is being tackled undergoes some “bumps and bruises” during the restoration process.

An indispensable part of the procedure involved cleaning the stone surfaces while maintaining scrupulous attention to individual elements and adherence to the pre-restoration analysis performed with the help of the Diagnostic Survey Laboratory.  Great care was always taken in preserving and analyzing traces of polychrome and coatings, and special uses of material such as agar allowed for controlled, careful cleaning.

At first glance, one sees a piece of stone. A second look allows one to read through the miracles of the Bible on its surface.  In these scenes is the promise of God’s never-ending, miraculous love for all His people.  And the generosity of some of these people ensures that millions more can appreciate this piece of stone.  

Miracles do happen every day…especially when you are one of them.

Experiencing The Sistine Chapel like Never Before

Giudizio Universale: Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel

a must-see in Rome, available only for a limited time!
Sara Savoldello’s Testament To The Time In The Theatre
On March 12th at the Auditorium Conciliazione in Rome, all the Vatican employees were invited to the preview of the “Universal Judgment: Michelangelo and the secrets of the Sistine Chapel,” a beautiful show with brilliant special effects, 4k projections, dancers, acrobats, produced by Marco Balich, a director and producer famed for organizing ceremonies at the Olympic games.

I went to the show with my son Francesco, 11 years old, and had a great afternoon enjoying the company of many colleagues who brought their relatives to the show. It was like being inside an Art History Book: page after page: all the life of Michelangelo as a sculptor before and a painter afterwards, every scene was in 4D so scenes as the water, rain, wind, light and dark were so vivid and real. We were surrounded by images we could nearly touch.. It has been an incredible experience and enjoyed seeing all my colleagues with their nose up in the air absorbing all the colors of the frescoes.

“The Vatican Museums offered their expertise to ensure the accuracy of the presentation. Experts from the Vatican helped recreate the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, and offered critical perspective on the relationships between Michelangelo and Popes Julius II and Clement VII; as well as explaining the process of papal conclaves!

An incredible sound systemand music by Sting made my son dance and sing while hopping happily outside the theatre!
(Courtesy of Vatican News)

Touching Art in the Vatican Museums



Imagine you cannot see, but want to experience the beauty of the Vatican Museums. Someone might be able to describe the pieces to you, but would it not be great to be able to actually touch them? Or what if you could sense a three dimensional piece of art like an ancient sarcophagus or marble statue? On Friday, February 2nd, I witnessed a very emotional scene, as I saw several blind people run their hands across a statue of Christ the Good Shepherd, and several other works of “touching art” on display in the Pius Christian Museum. Thanks to the Italian International Chapter of the Patrons of the Arts and their generous donors, several replicas of sarcophagi, and other replica statues are now on display in the museums. They not only look just like the originals, but they also are made of a marble composite that even gives them the same feel of the coldness and hardness of marble to the touch of the hand. February 2ndinaugurated some new additions to the ongoing “Touching Art” collection on display in various parts of the Vatican Museums. These new pieces, also include braille signage and an accessible display that was designed with input from the visually impaired themselves.

Father Kevin Lixey L.C.

International Director



“Touching Art in the Vatican Museums is a beautiful art access project, supported by the Italian & International Vatican Patrons … The curators have designed a series of special tactile displays that now are part of the most important collection of Early Christian sculptures in the world! On Friday February 4th 2018 an incredible group of visually impaired individuals came to the Museums to explore Touching Art and give their feedback…Thank you to all who participated in this project!”

Amy Gallant Sullivan (left)
Sabrina Zappia (right)
from the Italian & International Chapter