That Old-Time Religion

The Vatican hunts down relics from hundreds of years ago for a traveling display on papal history.

One of the earliest images of Jesus Christ graces the first-ever traveling exhibit of papal memorabilia in Vatican Splendors From Saint Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums & the Swiss Guard. Its Cleveland debut this week marks the second of only three American stops this year when you can eyeball artifacts like the fifth-century Mandylion of Edessa, which is historically compared to the Shroud of Turin. "The king of Edessa sent for Jesus, but he couldn't go. So Jesus placed his face in the cloth," says Mark Greenberg, the show's producer. "The comparisons [with the shroud] are astounding." The collection also spotlights mosaics, paintings, and swords, and the stories behind each of them. For instance, a tiara was given to Pope Pius VII by a tempestuous Napoléon Bonaparte in 1800. "It was created from jewels and precious stones that Napoléon and his army had looted from the Vatican — and then made two sizes too small," says Greenberg. "Like the Grinch."The display features regalia from the Papal Swiss Guard, a ceremonial vestment worn by the reigning Pope Benedict XVI — even the purported bones of Saint Peter. "People of the Catholic faith will get something out of it on one level," says Greenberg. "But anyone interested in history, culture, and art will see some great objects, many of which have never been on display before." The exhibit runs from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursdays through Sundays, through Sunday, September 7, at the Western Reserve Historical Society, 10825 East Boulevard in University Circle. Admission is $14 to $20. Call 800-840-1157 or visit
Mondays-Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.; Thursdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Starts: June 3. Continues through Sept. 7, 2008