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Sistine Chapel Meets MOA

Next year is the 500th anniversary of Michelangelo’s ascent to the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, where he painted the world’s most celebrated fresco. It’s also the anniversary of the Catholic Church’s establishment of the papal Swiss Guard, the Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica. To commemorate the occasion of its total institutional domination of Europe’s art and culture, the Vatican is shipping many of its finest valuables in a traveling exhibition to the Fort Lauderdale Museum of Art, one of three locations to be graced with the church’s 700-year-old paintings by Giotto and the baroque sculptures of Gian Lorenzo Bernini. The only thing better than this collection would be a tour of the Vatican vaults. Among the 200-plus priceless artifacts, many never before seen by the public, are papal jewels, bone fragments of Saint Peter and Saint Paul, and Pope John II’s personal effects, along with swords, armor, and uniforms used by the papal Swiss guards — plus, most stunningly, the compass and tools employed by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel. The objects, as the MOA puts it, are meant to “illustrate the Catholic Church’s impact on history and culture” — or rather, a narrow, whitewashed view of that impact, since a Giotto is no less a product of the church than a witch-burning stake.

“Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art” opens Saturday and runs until April 24 at the Museum of Art|Fort Lauderdale, located at 1 E. Las Olas Blvd. in Fort Lauderdale. Call 954-525-5500, or visit
Tuesdays-Sundays. Starts: Jan. 29. Continues through April 24, 2011

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