The Vatican Museums as places to deepen faith through art

Elizabeth Lev, Renaissance art historian, author of the Tigress of Forli, who writes on art for Zenit, the Catholic news agency, recently described on the site an initiative she has been involved in at the Vatican museums, designing a course on Christianity and art to enrich the knowledge of the guides in the museum. What follows below is a summary of her article.The course took place last week. The aim was to enable guides to engage visitors seeking to know more about the faith that inspired the works on display. It is not the first initiative that the Vatican Museums have been involved in to harness the collections as a means to evangelise, and deepen faith. It is a project that Pope John Paul II encouraged and Pope Benedict XVI developed and outlined in 2006, onwards, the year the 500th anniversary of the Vatican collection was celebrated. He appointed a new director Professor Antonio Paolucci, and in turn a department of ‘art and faith’ was set up. Lev mentions the previous projects of the department in the article; “art and faith” themed itineraries, a DVD on the Via Pulchritudinis and an exhibition, “Called to Love,” for World Youth Day 2011. Yesterday, an exhibition opened at Castel Sant’ Angelo called on the Path of Peter, showing the apostle’s journey in faith through art down the ages.

Elizabeth Lev describes designing the course, which was delivered in 11 sessions last week.  Cardinal Ravasi, Archbishop of Milan and head of the Pontifical Council of Culture began the week outlining the curriculum with a talk “Why do Christians have art?” and the course went on to look at different periods in the history of the Church and art, and the relationship between the two. It was presented by specialists amongst the staff, and from outside, Lev herself and Sara Magister, expert on the collection of Julius II (who recently outlined a new interpretation of Caravaggio’s Calling of St Matthew) as well as other speakers including Mgr Timothy Verdon, who has done similar work with art in churches of the Archdiocese of Florence.





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