The Sistine Chapel and Vatican Museums cause every onlooker to lift their spirit and contemplate the relationship between God and man. God speaks to each person individually. And to a chosen number, he instills a specific call, not only to appreciate but also to make a special effort to keep the beauty before them alive and to carry it forward.
The works of art and rare antiquities throughout the rooms, chapels, galleries, and courtyards inside the museums are seen by millions of visitors every year.
But beyond the public eye and behind closed doors are those pieces temporarily under restoration, fragile works to be curated and restored.
These are the restoration laboratories inside the Vatican Museums. EWTN Vatican goes behind the scenes, where restorers commit themselves daily for months and even years to restoring a single work of art.
Across the museums, the needs are nearly endless. In the museums, an estimated 20,000 works of the almost 70,000 cultural artifacts are on display, many of which need constant restoration.
The "Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums," an organization founded in 1983, ensures that these needs are met. The patrons are celebrating their 40th Anniversary. Their office sits in Vatican City, and they have non-profit chapters spread across the globe.
Msgr. Terence Hogan, SLD, Vatican Office Coordinator of the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums, explained, "We have chapters in Asia, North America, Europe, many, many places. It's an international group of people, patrons who come together for the main purpose of preserving and conserving the museums in the arts. You know, we say museums. The Vatican Museum is not just one area; it comprises nine particular museums. And so the art that is there, much of it going back over 2000 years, needs to be preserved. And it's a very delicate operation to do that restoration work. And it is the benefactors, the patrons, who help the museums in their ability to help the restorers preserve the works, so the rest of the generations can come to enjoy these works and look at them and say, 'this is part of our civilization.'"
Before the patrons' founding, Pope St. Paul VI laid the groundwork in 1969. He called together an international group of benefactors called the "Friends of the Vatican Museums." Their purpose was to purchase modern art and bring it to the Vatican Museums, and from this point forward, new ideas began to spring forth.
Msgr. Hogan recounted the development of Pope St. Paul VI's initiative: "A number of years later, in the early 1980s with Pope Saint John Paul II, something very exciting happened. He allowed a very large exhibit to come to New York, to Chicago, and to California. And that was 40 years ago. So among the 'Friends of the Vatican Museums' who originally were buying art for the museums, there was an understanding now that the museums needed to preserve and restore the art that's already there. And so this was the founding of the name change to 'Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums.'" And they are celebrating the 40th anniversary of their founding.
To mark this occasion, they gathered at the Vatican from November 6-10 with chapter members from across the globe in attendance.
Msgr. Hogan greeted them on this occasion, "Buongiorno! Good morning, everybody! Welcome to the wonderful, wonderful beginning of the week of the 40th anniversary of the Patrons. You're in a very special place. This is the Synod Hall of the Vatican City State. And there's just so much history in this very room over the many, many years, the Synod Hall."
To celebrate, the panel gathered key figures from the Vatican and its museums, including Sister Raffaella Petrini, Secretary General of the Vatican City State; Dr. Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums; and Cardinal Fernando Vérgez Alzaga, president of the Vatican City state.
Cardinal Alzaga underlined the significance of this anniversary: it "brings back memories for everyone, but it is also a renewal: a time for the awareness of our important mission, the preservation of beauty that is so beneficial for all humanity. In such a dramatic time in the life of the world, especially with the war in Ukraine and, more recently, in the Holy Land. Art plays an indispensable role in building bridges to form a path to peace, to admire the beauty of the great masters, and to contemplate artistic genius."
The cardinal also expressed gratitude to the patrons for their "active and generous collaboration that has allowed us to be faithful; and [for their] service to the Holy Father of the Church and the preservation of this artistic patrimony of the Holy See." He then imparted God's blessing on the patrons and their work.
For the next four weeks on "Vaticano," EWTN Vatican will accompany the Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Museums to show you key moments during their five-day pilgrimage in the Eternal City and to give you a rare look at life inside the restoration laboratories and projects of the Vatican Museums.
(Adapted by Jacob Stein)
Anthony Johnson is a filmmaker at the EWTN Vatican Bureau and is Senior Video Producer of the office's Projects Incubator. He is from San Jose, California and a graduate of Gonzaga University where he studied both Classical Civilizations and Broadcast Journalism. He joined EWTN as a Video Editor in 2017 for the "Vaticano" program, and still contributes to the program while working on a variety of multimedia initiatives and documentaries in Rome.