February 8, 2000
volume 11, no. 27
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Pope John Paul II Dedicates New Entrance to Museums that symbolizes his pontificate of "Crossing the Threshold"

    VATICAN CITY, FEB 7 (ZENIT). - One of the objectives of his Pontificate, as the Pope stated this morning during the inauguration ceremony of the new entrance for the Vatican Museums, has been "to help mankind cross the door, in order to leave behind the constrictions of materialism and pass into the freedom of faith." He said that the completion of this project is a proof of the Church's will for a dialogue between faith and art.

    This is the most ambitious of the architectural projects undertaken by the Holy See for the Jubilee year. The new entrance will serve to reduce waiting time for a continuously growing number of pilgrims and visitors. Over the last twenty years the number of visitors to the Museums has doubled from a million and a half yearly to three million. Now up to 20 thousand people a day will be able to enjoy the art treasures housed by the Vatican. The total cost of the project was $23 million.

    "At the end of the 18th century when Clement XIV and Pius VI founded the Vatican Museums, in the modern sense of the word," said the Pope, "visitors were a very privileged elite. Today there are thousands of people a day, from every social level and culture, coming from all parts of the world. It can truly be said that the Museums represent, culturally speaking, one of the Holy See's most important doors open to the world."

    The old entrance to the Vatican Museums now becomes the exit. The new entrance will take the visitor through the Museums in only one direction. About 1,400,000 cubic feet were excavated under the historic Belvedere fortification to make the project possible. The exterior Vatican walls have remained practically unchanged. However, some of the interior arrangement has been modified to create an ample courtyard with a glass and concrete structure that will be used to protect visitors on rainy days. A spiral staircase and eight elevators take visitors to different service areas: ticket office, children's playroom, currency exchange booth, bookstores, first aid station, and a restaurant capable of serving several thousand a day.

    The new glass and cement structure is reminiscent of that found at the Louvre in Paris. It bears the signatures of the whole team of Vatican engineers and architects that worked on it non-stop for three years.

    At the end of the inaugural ceremony, the Holy Father, accompanied by his closest assistants, visited the completed works. He admired the enormous bronze door by Cecco Bonanotte, where the Creation of the world is represented, and a complex marble sculpture, placed at the entrance, the work of Giuliano Vangi. This last work is entitled "Crossing the Threshold."

    The new entrance to the Vatican Museums was designed by Giuliano Vangi, a Florentine sculptor. The marble sculpture represents the passing of the millenium and John Paul II's extraordinary pontificate.

    Vangi, age 69, accepted this job "with apprehension," he stated. "I thought about the ten thousand people who would be looking at my statue every day. For this reason, I worked on the project for more than a year, making a large number of studies, designs, mockups in clay and stucco. It was a real business."

    The meaning of this work is well expressed by its title, "Crossing the Threshold." "I represented the Pope at two different and crucial moments of his pontificate: the beginning and the end," stated Vangi. "It is a sort of Alpha and Omega of a Magisterium that has helped us to come back from the refuse of ideologies of this 'short' and terrible century. Modern man is represented with a tie and all, while he is freed from a wall that is falling, which not only represents the Wall par excellence, the Berlin Wall, but also the wall of Auschwitz, where the Pope cried; and even more, it is a symbol of all the walls of the world and of the untiring prayer of the Pontiff, of the universal prayer that destroys those walls."

    According to Vangi, this work also affirms the often forgotten value of beauty. "Beauty is a truly universal value," he explained," which finds its complete legitimation in Christian art. Beauty is an indispensable nourishment for every anthropology; it is true satisfaction for the soul." ZE00020706 and ZE00020707


February 8, 2000
volume 11, no. 27

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