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Museum, Archdiocese ready for opening of Vatican exhibit

By Rachel Lippmann, St. Louis Public Radio

St. Louis – Bone fragments from Saints Peter and Paul, a chalice used by Pope John Paul II and a series of papal portraits are among the objects in the newest special exhibit at the Missouri History Museum.

Some of the artifacts in "Vatican Splendors," which opens Saturday, have never been seen outside the Vatican's museum complex. St. Louis is the first of three American stops for the show this year, and the only one in the Midwest.

Though Archbishop Robert Carlson has seen many of the artifacts during travels to Italy, he liked the smaller setting.

And non-Catholics, he said, will find plenty among the 175 artifacts to inspire them.

"When I was here last time, the exhibit on race, it moved me in ways that I never imagine. And yet I wasn't involved in the suffering that took place," Carlson said.

The exhibit struck Missouri Historical Society president Bob Archibald in many ways - but a set of tools Michelangelo used during the construction of St. Peter's Basilica was a highlight.

"Michelangelo is one of those characters that seems almost magical, he seems not real, but there you look at his compass and you think, oh, okay, he was a real guy," Archibald said.

Museum officials believe Vatican Splendors could become the highest-drawing special exhibit, an honor that currently belongs to an exhibit on the Lewis and Clark bicentennial. Ticket sales are going well, Archibald said. The exhibit opens Saturday for a three-month run.