It took three years of extraordinary building works to reopen to the public in September the historic “Library of the Popes”. 1,600,000 printed volumes, 80,000 manuscripts and 100,000 archival units, 8,400 incunabula, about 300,000 coins and medals, 150,000 prints, drawings and engravings, and over 150,000 pictures. These are just the key figures of the Vatican Library.
On this occasion, which was long awaited by thousands of scholars (about 20,000 attend each year), the Vatican Library is revealed to the public through an exhibition in the Braccio di Carlo Magno, Saint Peter’s Square, running until March 13.
The exhibition will look into the history of a precious and boundless heritage such as the one preserved in the Vatican Library (founded in 1451); but it is also an opportunity to illustrate, with the help of technology, the immense cultural, religious and human value that it has for men and women of today and for future generations.
A guided, multimedia tour available in Italian, English, French, Spanish and German which offers a view even of the otherwise inaccessible “internal” areas of the Library. Such as the extraordinary Sistine Hall of the Library, painted in the late sixteenth century and rebuilt for the exhibition, complete with splendid frescoes and furnished with reading tables where visitors may don white gloves and consult the precious manuscripts (in facsimile). It is also possible to see the “laboratories” where the Library staff do their daily work. And the last room contains a laboratory for the restoration of ancient manuscripts, precious bindings and printed books. The Library’s restoration experts work in front of the visitors and can interact with them by answering questions and providing general information on methods and techniques of restoration and preservation.
The exhibition is divided into seven sections displaying some of the most important manuscripts of Western history, dating from the early Christian era to the present day; precious incunabula and rare printed volumes from all periods; drawings by the greatest artists in Western art; art prints; and an extraordinary selection of coins and medals.
You Tube video of the exhibition