Remember that Onion headline a few years back when Pope John Paul II died? "Heaven Less Opulent Than Vatican, Reports Disappointed Pope." Zing. Everybody knows that the pope and his posse at the Vatican live surrounded by ornate and priceless treasures amid ancient buildings designed and decorated by brilliant minds from the past. And now you can see it up close. In St. Paul for one of only three U.S. stops, the traveling exhibit "Vatican Splendors: From Saint Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the Swiss Guard," brings the grandeur of the world's smallest city-state to the Catholic faithful and curious non-Catholics alike. The pieces presented span thousands of years of Catholic history and show a side of the Vatican not seen at the pope's public receptions. The show includes the Mandylion of Edessa, what is thought to be the first image of Jesus to make its way to Rome; a reliquary containing what the Vatican says are the bones of Saint Peter; and schematics for the original Saint Peter's Basilica built by Constantine. More modern objects on display include a white smoke cartridge used to announce the election of Pope Benedict XVI, John Paul II's pastoral staff, and photos and stories examining his work around the world.
Sept. 27-Jan. 11, 2008