So as Mark has already posted, Joanie and I visited the “Treasures of the Vatican” exhibit at the History Museum on Tuesday. We purchased the audio tour. Occasionally I realized that I had gone a different way from the audio, so I either backtracked, or I just listened to it where I was. If you go, I’d recommend the audio tour, although the signs are fairly detailed.
I liked the very old pieces, some of them predating Constantine’s conversion to Christianity. Before then, Christians generally worshipped in secret. They sometimes left items at the burial site of St. Peter. St. Peter was crucified by Nero, and at his request, crucified upside down, as he said he was not worthy of dying in the same manner as Jesus. (If you like morbid stories, a history of the saints will definitely fill the bill.)
Another piece that particularly touched me was a small painting of Mary and the infant Jesus. She is showing him a book, and he is reaching for it. I’m sure it’s supposed to portray the Scriptures, but I like to think she’s reading him a favorite bedtime story, and he’s saying, “Read it again!”
The mosaics are spectacular. At the end of the tour, they had a tie-in with our own St. Louis Cathedral, showing pictures of the construction of the Cathedral and the mosaic workers from Ravenna, Italy. They had a segment showing the under layers of the mosaics which you could touch. I chose to touch that, although I did not touch the hand cast from one of the recent Popes. (Either John XXIII or John Paul II, my brain is not giving up the details.)
When we went, there was no wait, and it was well attended, but not so crowded that you couldn’t see the objects or the signs. Ron Jackson has also blogged about his visit, so here’s a link to his thoughts. The picture, Bust of an Angel (detail), came from a postcard bought at the exhibit. It comes from 14th Century piece, created by Glotto di Bondone and is a polychrome mosaic.