Monday, August 11, 2008


The exhibit is at the Western Reserve Historical Society through the rest of this month. I got to see it yesterday afternoon. If you are planning to see it, allow two hours or more. There is a lot of reading to do if you want to understand each piece. You will find 2-D artwork, papal ceremonial garments, liturgical implements, a couple of papal tiaras. There were many people going through it when I was. Everyone was invariably polite, and the museum was quieter than a Catholic church on Sunday morning.

There were some surprises mid-exhibit. One display showed Chinese art--a phoenix rising with bamboo and a pine tree. Nothing tied this into Catholicism at all. There was other Chinese artwork, again non-religious. There was a stone carving from Mexico of some sort of feathered creature with no Christian significance. Coming around a corner and finding these things in the midst of this very Catholic exhibit was disquieting. I truly have no idea what it was doing there, and no explanation was offered. No other country was represented, just these few pieces from China and one piece from Mexico. Odd.

Another surprise was the papal chasuble--white silk embroidered all over with bees. Sign said the symbolism was of the gospel which is sweater than honey. Odd.

There were two papal tiaras on display, one said to include the world's largest emerald.

John Paul II's cassock was there. He was shorter than I had thought. There were Swiss Guard uniforms--3 of them contemporary. One included armor. All were equally as strange to look at as the typical blue and gold striped uniform seen most often.

There is a walk-through room constructed to look like Michaelangelo's scaffolding used for painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Standing there was like stepping momentarily back in time.

Seeing the exhibition was sort of expensive. Tickets are $20. Parking was $8. The prerecorded guided tour with cassette and headphones was $5. I would like to have brought home the exhibition booklet, but that was $24.99. I started out using the headphones but found that they repeated what was written beside each of the exhibits. There is also a pre-recorded message broad casted to the room for several of the exhibits. It competed with the message going into my ear. After a while I just abandoned the headset and stuck to reading.

All things considered, though, I'm glad I got to see it.

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