St. Peter and the Vatican, Milwaukee Public Museum
We made time to see the traveling exhibit, "St. Peter and the Vatican," which is stopping at the financially troubled Milwaukee Public Museum for its last show in the US. We hope it will help the Museum out, since it's being very popular, but it is also obviously a very expensive show to house. The exhibit consists of more than 300 pieces, including pieces of artwork and sculpture that remain from the churches and basilicas that were eventually replaced by the monumental St. Peter's, accompanied by a detailed and interesting timeline on the ups and downs of the Papacy, the Vatican, and the great basilica. There are, as you might expect, reliquaries, monstrances, and jewel-encrusted chalices that frame the mental image of holy treasures, but many other less usual things of great significance. We were most struck by items like an old, worn altar cloth, embroidered by humble nuns, in satin stitch of such fineness that to the casual eye the pattern might have been taken for woven in or printed on. We also always seem to find, in these exhibits, some odd thing you never thought might have existed. Who knew, for example, that altar vessels would include such a thing as an ecclesiastical drinking straw? Yes, a gilt metal tube with a mouth shield that makes it look rather like a mad-scientist's pipette crosses with a trombone mouthpiece. How is it used? I have no idea, but it was fun to see, as were the magnificent vestments, crooks, thrones, and other regalia.