Slightly more than 16 inches tall, the terra-cotta statuette of “Daniel in the Lion’s Den” tells a larger-than-life biblical tale of a young man who escapes a savage death.
But if you look closely, there’s more to the story. “You can actually see the sculptor’s thumbprint in the clay,” says Mark Greenberg, president of Evergreen Exhibitions, which brings Gian Lorezno Bernini’s sculpture and other exquisite Vatican artifacts to the Western Reserve Historical Society this month for a summer visit.
Vatican Splendors from Saint Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and The Swiss Guard features more than 200 artifacts, which connect visitors with artistic, religious and historical objects that show the Vatican’s impact on art history.
Many objects in the exhibition have not been seen outside Vatican City until arriving in the United States for this three-city tour. The timing of the exhibition commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Vatican Museum, the construction of the modern St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Papal Swiss Guard. Items from all three will be featured in Vatican Splendors.
The most anticipated relic in this collection, Greenberg says, is a bronze casting of the hand of Pope John Paul II that visitors are welcome to reach out and touch — an item that, like others in the collection, aims to provide Catholics a physical and spiritual connection to their faith.
“There’s everything in this exhibition, from one of the earliest images of Jesus, the Mandylion of Edessa,” Greenberg says, “all the way to the ballot box and the smoke canisters from the recent election of Pope Benedict XVI.”
Vatican Splendors from Saint Peter’s Basilica, The Vatican Museums and The Swiss Guard will be on display May 31 through Sept. 7. Separate admission fees apply. For more information, call (216) 721-5722 or visit www.wrhs.org.