Vatican exhibits ancient Gospels

For the first time in history tourists can now stroll through the halls of the Vatican library and sit quietly to read an ancient manuscript thanks to a new exhibition. “Understanding the Vatican Library: a History Open to the Future,” shows how the library works and toward putting an end to the idea of its mysteriousness and inaccessibility. For the event the Vatican will hold a conference to publicize the library, which has already signed more than 350 experts to participate.

Card. Raffaele Farina, S.D.B., Librarian of the Vatican Library: “The library by nature is unknown because there are manuscripts of ancient texts, ancient scripts written in languages that not everyone has the ability to read. It can only be done by specialists. Therefore, it is not simply a matter of excluding people.”

Welcoming visitors is a reproduction of the Sistine Hall, decorated with frescoes from the late sixteenth century. One can then sit at a table and enjoy all the gems the library has to offer, as a student might. But the most precious document of the exhibit is this manuscript.

Barbara Jatta, Vatican Library: “Perhaps the most important part is the Papyrus Bodmer 14-15, it is the first known transcription of the Gospel, dating from the late second century and early third century,” recently acquired for the Vatican Library by American philanthropist Frank Hanna and the Solidarity Association he founded.

Card. Raffaele Farina, S.D.B., Librarian of the Vatican Library: “The Papyrus Bodmer 14-15, includes most of the Gospels of Luke and John and is dated between the years 170-220 AD. It therefore seems to be the prologue of the Gospel of St. John or the text of the Lord’s Prayer. It is the oldest copy in existence.”

A visitor can see firsthand the Bull from the First Jubilee, published on February 22 in the year 1300. As well as the Divine Comedy by Dante Alighieri, and Bernini’s sketches of the Basilica of St. John Lateran. Another surprise that surrounds the exhibition is the part dedicated to the restoration. You can see the first instruments that were used to restore old documents, to the most modern techniques of preservation, such as this device that scans books. The exhibition will allow the public to better understand this library that holds one million six hundred thousand volumes and 80 thousand manuscripts. The Pope will visit the library on December 18, a special guest for a place of such historic value.

from RomeReports, November 10, 2010:

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