VATICAN CITY (AP) – The Vatican Apostolic Library, which houses ancient manuscripts, rare books and reading rooms for academics, opens its doors to the general public with a small new exhibition space aimed at associating its treasures artistic to contemporary art.
The inaugural exhibition “Tutti” (All) is inspired by Pope Francis’ 2020 encyclical “Frères Tous” which combines its calls for environmental sustainability, greater human brotherhood and a fairer socio-economic order in the world post-COVID.
The Roman artist Pietro Ruffo, for whom maps and migrations are recurring themes, was invited to design an in situ exhibition in one of the rooms of the Library, which he transformed into a tropical forest. In another room, Ruffo designed a contemporary version of one of the library’s old Nile maps with the two running side by side in a display case.
Opening the new space last week, Francis said the world needed new maps after COVID-19.
“In this change of times that the pandemic has accelerated, humanity needs new maps to discover the meaning of brotherhood, friendship and the common good,” he said. “We need a new beauty, which is not the usual reflection of the power of some but a courageous mosaic of the diversity of each.”
The initiative, funded by the estate of the American philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian, follows Francis’ call at the start of his pontificate for the Library to be more open to the outside world. Francis followed this line by also opening the papal summer residence at Castel Gandolfo to the public as a museum.
The exhibition, which runs until February 22, is open Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons and offers visitors a unique way to enter Vatican City that would otherwise be banned. Visitors must apply for admission in advance online, and the entrance fee of 15 euros includes the catalog.
The Apostolic Library is separate from the Vatican Secret Archives, recently renamed the Vatican Apostolic Archives, which houses all documentation of the Holy See and its remote embassies. Both are open to academics on request.