June 23, 2010

Is the Pope Catholic? Apparently So!

Today, The Mister and I went to the Missouri History Museum to see The Vatican Splendors exhibit. Since The Boy is off at camp (and no phone calls to come pick him up yet!), we planned to do stuff in the area that The Boy would not be interested in.

The weather this week has been brutal - temps near or at 100 degrees, heat indices up to 115. So instead of visiting the lovely Missouri Botanical Garden or Cahokia Mounds, we opted for the air-conditioned comfort of the museum.

If you've ever been to an exhibit of this sort (my girls and I attended a Napoleon exhibit many years ago), you purchase your tickets for a specific start time. We arrived at the museum okay, but The Mister had trouble finding a parking space - so he dropped me off outside the door, and I ventured in to see if our tardiness would be held against us (it wasn't - there's a half hour window allotted for starting the tour). While I was waiting for The Mister to show up, I paid the $5.50 for the rental of headset - so I could listen to additional information about pre-determined items in the exhibit.

There was quite a group amassed for the 10:30 start - I think we were with the contingency of retired Catholics this morning. There were no children in line at all - and truth be known, I felt kinda young! That feeling didn't last long, as my bum hip began to protest after so much shuffling and standing.

I wish I could show you pictures of some of the cool stuff we saw - but photography of any kind was strictly prohibited. 

I wish I could steal some great pics from the Vatican Splendors site, but prior written authorization is required. Harumph. Click on the link yourself here or here - just don't tell them I sent you, I don't need the grief.

I really enjoyed looking at the artwork, some of which has not been displayed outside the Vatican before now. The mosaics and the micromosaics are gorgeous. There is a walkthrough of a sample of the Sistine Chapel. You can see it two feet above your head, instead of the usual 60 feet (and with the phony scaffolding is a plank that strategically covers the man bits of one of the subjects of the painting); I admit, I giggled, slightly...and pointed it out to The Mister.  Ok, I'm juvenile. It is inconceivable to me that Michelangelo could have finished the entire ceiling in four years. It was done as a fresco, so could only be painted each day while the plaster was wet.

And he did not consider himself a fresco painter. He was a sculptor and stonemason by trade.  Another photo I found online:

In later years, Michelangelo also became one of architects for the rebuilding of St. Peter's Basilica (the entire rebuilding effort took from 1506 to 1626).

Another interesting section was about the effort the Church made (started by Pope Gregory XV in 1623) to teach the world about Catholicism - something they first called "Congregatio de propaganda fide" (Congregation for propagating the faith) - an effort to educate priests and have them evangelize to peoples around the world. They had a beautiful painting of a Korean Madonna, Jesus and John there - somehow, I assumed they'd have just used images done by the Roman artists - so I was impressed by their inclusion of other cultures. Here's a mosaic I found online (not from the exhibit) of the Korean Mother and Child:

And it was a bit weird to think that that's where the word propaganda started from (and all its negative associations). Also, the word "stereotypes" got its start in Rome - it had to do with the printing plates they'd use to print standard Church teachings in other languages (again, not how we now think of the word).

One of the most touching parts of the exhibit was in the section that had paintings and busts of the Popes of modern times. I watched several people lovingly touch the casting of Pope John Paul II's hand - the ONLY part of the exhibit where touching was allowed.

We are not, nor have we ever been, Catholics - I'm sure the entire experience would be more meaningful as a member. I was raised as a Lutheran - there was ONE stinkin' sentence mentioning that troublemaker Martin Luther (but then I remembered that the exhibit was about the art and faith of the Catholics, not about the rabble-rousers, and I got over myself). Also, as a non-Catholic, we did NOT get the $2 parish discount on the price of the tickets.

The exhibit moves from St. Louis to Pittsburgh, PA, later this year. If you're nearby, I'd certainly recommend a visit.


  1. Thanks for sharing. It is great when you get an opportunity to see something like that.

  2. I love museums and history so put the two together and I'm there!


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