Home   |  About Us   |  Contacts   |  Products    
 News Items:
 News Briefs
 Word To Life
 More News:
 Special Section:
 Vatican II at 40
 John Paul II
 Election 2004
 Charter update
 John Jay study
 Other Items:
 Client Area
 Did You Know...

 The whole CNS
 public Web site
 headlines, briefs
 stories, etc,
 represents less
 than one percent
 of the daily news

 Get all the news!

 If you would like
 more information
 about the
 Catholic News
 Service daily
 news report,
 please contact
 CNS at one of
 the following:
 (202) 541-3250


 This material
 may not
 be published,
 rewritten or
 (c) 2006
 Catholic News
 Conference of
 Catholic Bishops.

 CNS Story:

VATICAN MUSEUMS Feb-14-2006 (600 words) With photos. xxxi

Vatican Museums trace origin to marble sculpture bought 500 years ago

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Although they have thousands of objects on display and even more in storage, the Vatican Museums trace their origin to one marble sculpture, purchased 500 years ago.

The sculpture of Laocoon, the priest who, according to Greek mythology, tried to convince the people of ancient Troy not to accept the "gift" of the Greeks' hollow horse, was discovered Jan. 14, 1506, in a vineyard near Rome's Basilica of St. Mary Major.

Pope Julius II sent Guiliano da Sangallo and Michelangelo Bonarroti, who were working at the Vatican, to check out the discovery. On their recommendation, the pope immediately purchased the sculpture from the vineyard owner.

The pope put the sculpture of Laocoon and his sons in the grips of a sea serpent on public display at the Vatican exactly one month after its discovery.

U.S. Cardinal Edmund C. Szoka, president of the office governing Vatican City State, which includes the museums, marked the 500th anniversary of the museums by presiding over a Feb. 14 press conference.

Over the course of the centuries, he said, the popes have collected important art and artifacts, "preserving them from oblivion and destruction and presenting them to successive generations."

"Artists of every epoch were called to express themselves and to reveal their vocations at the service of beauty and of faith," Cardinal Szoka said.

Each year the Vatican Museums allow 4 million people from every nation and faith to admire the work of human genius, much of it produced in praise of God, he said.

Cardinal Szoka was to celebrate a special Mass for the museums' employees Feb. 17 in the Sistine Chapel, the centerpiece of most people's visit to the museums.

The calendar of special events for the 500th anniversary celebrations also includes:

-- The October opening of a new segment of the Roman Necropolis, an ancient burial ground that includes the site of the tomb of St. Peter under St. Peter's Basilica. The new segment, covering an area of almost 600 square yards, was discovered three years ago when the Vatican began excavations for an underground parking garage.

Francesco Buranelli, director of the Vatican Museums, said the new section includes about 30 burial chambers and about 70 individual tombs "where the visitor can immerse himself in an intact burial ground of imperial Rome." Many of the tombs, dating from the first century B.C. to the third century after Christ, are decorated with frescoes, mosaics and carvings, he said.

-- The April unveiling of newly restored murals by Bernardino di Betto, better known as Pintoricchio, in the Borgia Apartments. While the project is ongoing, the murals depicting events from the lives of Christ and Mary will be revealed.

-- The November opening of a special exhibit dedicated to the Laocoon sculpture, which Buranelli said had a major impact on artists from the moment of its discovery.

"The contortion of the limbs and the suffering on the faces of the poor Trojan priest and his two sons, entangled in the coils of the monstrous serpent sent by Athena and Poseidon, were the best interpretation of that 'pathos' and that anatomical movement so central to artistic research" beginning in the 1500s, Buranelli said.

Although the statue has been the subject of repeated research, museum officials said its exact age still is not known.

"According to the most recent theories," a press release said, "the Vatican Laocoon could be an original from 40-30 B.C. or a Roman copy from the Tiberian era (A.D. 14-37) of a bronze original from the Hellenistic period."


Copyright (c) 2006 Catholic News Service/USCCB. All rights reserved.
This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed.
CNS · 3211 Fourth St NE · Washington DC 20017 · 202.541.3250