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Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Treasures of Heaven

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The above photo looks as though it was taken in a shrine gift shop. In fact it is from the gift shop at the British Museum - there are medals of St George, Eamon Duffy's "The Stripping of the Altars", and various other books, pictures, medals and artefacts related to the Our Lord, Our Lady and the saints.

The British Museum is currently holding the Treasures of Heaven exhibition which was organised with the Cleveland Art Museum and the Walters Art Museum. It was sponsored by John Studzinski, a Catholic who is a wealthy investment banker. He has supported many good works such as the Passage for the homeless, and established the Genesis Foundation which encourages young composers, especially in sacred music. The British Museum website has a video introducing the exhibition as well as an impressive list of events. Their blog has a post about installing the exhibition.

The exhibition includes many precious reliquaries as well as other related objects (the BBC's History Extra has some photographs.) The various commentaries and notes show respect and, indeed a certain reverence. It is worth Catholic visitors remembering that these are indeed sacred objects and that it is appropriate to pray as well as admire the beauty of the displays.

One item that brought me up short was the sarcophagus a large chi-rho emblem in the centre. I felt sure that it was familiar. The small print on the card next to it confirmed this: it was on loan from the Pio Christian Museum (part of the Vatican Museums) and probably featured in the course on Christian iconography by Fr Martinez Fazio which most of us took at some time during our stay in Rome in the early 1980s.

As I am fortunate enough to live within easy reach of London, I will probably visit the exhibition again before it closes in October, and spend a little more time at it.
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