Wednesday, October 15, 2014



Founded in 1926 by Pius XI Ratti (1922/39) in the Lateran Palace
It was moved here at the behest of John XXIII (1958/63)
It was inaugurated only in 1973 by Paul VI Montini (1963/78) in the new wing designed by the brothers Lucio (1922) and Fausto Passarelli (1910/98)

The original collection of 40,000 works, was selected by a committee among no less than 100,000 objects from around the world, offered to the pope by private individuals, from missions and from 400 dioceses for the Great Exhibition of 1925 on the occasion of the Holy Year

Over the years, the initial collection has been enriched with new acquisitions and donations to reach the staggering amount of 100,000 works

The exhibition opens with the oldest object in the Vatican Museums: “Tool for chopping bones in quartzite” from South Africa dating back to about 2,000,000 years ago

“It represents the beginning of technology and material culture .It is the first object built intentionally by a human being which has come down to us. It was used to break the bone marrow which our ancestors used to eat” (Vatican Museums - Description in the exhibit)

The museum, which is partially closed for the setting up of a new exhibition, will inevitably exhibit, when it will be completely reopened, only a small part of the enormous collection into five different sections:




Polychrome wood sculpture “Vairocana Buddha” from China

“Taoist Altar” from China

Reproduction of the altar of the Temple of Confucius in Kufu

Wooden statue of the “Kwanyn” ancient goddess of fertility

“Perfume burners” of the eighteenth century from Japan in metal with scenes and mythological figures of Shintoism

“Handicrafts of the Ainu population”, which means men, indigenous, now almost extinct, mostly present in the northern Japanese Island of Hokkaido

“Model of the Lamaist monastery of Tch'uoyang-Hien” in eastern Mongolia, founded in the eighteenth century

Two “Home altars” of the sixteenth century with Vishnu at the center and his various incarnations
Persian and Oriental “Majolica” from the Farina Collection in Palermo

Miniature painted with tempera and gold on paper “Young man in a garden” about 1565/1635 from Iran

Extraordinary “Twenty-four marble reliefs depicting stories of the Buddha” eight century AD from the BUDDHIST TEMPLE OF BORUBUDUR in the island of Java in Indonesia

The incredible temple was built by the architect Gunadharma for the Shailendra royal family (750/850) and was active for about two centuries before being abandoned
It was found in 1814 by the Dutch engineer H.C. Cornellius

It consists of a square base of about 122 m (400 feet) per side and was adorned by as many as 2,672 reliefs such as those present here and 504 statues

More than one thousand objects

Polychrome statue of winged lion known as "Singa Ambara Raja" and three polychrome statues of deities known as "Auction Dwipalaka" from Bali

Manuscript known as "Lontar" from Bali, made with five palm leaves kept together with a lanyard and stopped by two Chinese coins in bronze. There are scenes from the epic poem Ramayana

Collection of puppets of the "Theatre of Shadows" from Indonesia, whose stories are inspired by Hindu epic novels
In 2003 UNESCO declared the Wayang, Indonesian shadow theater, heritage of humanity as a masterpiece of oral intangible culture

“Kelembit Bok shield” from Kalimantan, region of the Borneo island, part of Indonesia

“This shield was one of the main instruments of the Dayak people. As well as being used in hunting, it was regarded as a catalyst for vital energies. The elaborate painted designs were meant to convey the fierness of the hunter as well as his strength. Using human hair as an ornament confirmed the success of the owner” (Information sign of the Vatican Museums)




“God TU” from the Mangarewa Island in Polynesia, considered to be the benefactor of humanity

“Figure of ancestor Moai Kavakava” from Easter Island, one of the gods who gave man the knowledge

“Ceremonial house for men” from New Guinea, hut that was sacred to the worship of ancestors forbidden to women and children

“Poles for tombs” painted and carved with totemic animals

“Ceremonial headdress and two scepters” nineteenth/early twentieth century, of the Mekeo people, New Britain, Papua New Guinea




Face mask-helmet “Agbogho Monnwu” from Nigeria. It used to belong to the Igbo tribe

“Fragments of vases” in colored terracotta from Egypt from the ninth to the sixteenth century

“Statuettes in clay” with beads from Basutoland. They represent ancestors adored by women for fertility

“Crucifixion” of the seventeenth century from Zaire, carved by members of the Bakongo tribe




“Quetzalcòatl” the feathered Aztec serpent considered the god of the wind

"Mask of the population Yahgan" late nineteenth/early twentieth century, from Tierra del Fuego in Chile

Busts and full statues of members of Indian tribes of North America” by Ferdinand Pettrich pupil of Bertel Thorvaldsen. The tribes represented are the Sioux, the Sauks-Foxes, the Winnebago and the Creeks

“Bible stand” in wood and mother-of-pearl from the Caribbean, belonged to the friar Bartolomeo de Las Heras chaplain of Christopher Columbus


Objects from Countries with Missions


“Painting on silk with Last Supper” by the Chinese artist Wang-Su-Ta

“Painting on Silk (kakemono) with the introduction of Christianity in Japan” by the Japanese artist Luca Hasegawa. It shows the arrival of Francis Xavier in Japan, Nagasaki's martyrdom and the Virgin as Queen of Japan

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