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Vatican

Exhibit: The Life of a Swiss Guard

After opening at the Vatican Museum in Rome, this unique Swiss Guard exhibit has appeared in only three US cities: Los Angeles, Boston, and Washington DC, and makes its last US stop in Minneapolis at The Basilica from June 3-July 30. 

Why stop at The Basilica in Minneapolis? In addition to his Basilica responsibilities, Director of Liturgy and Sacred Arts Johan van Parys chairs the local chapter of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums. The Patrons’ mission is to promote, protect, and restore the art and artifacts of the Vatican Museums. With over 6 million visitors annually and one of the largest collections in the world, the Vatican Museums reach out to make their collection available to those who can’t travel to Rome. 

We are blessed with this unique opportunity to have the Vatican Museums come to us. Long time Patrons members, Jack and Cathy Farrell and Lydie and Jacques Stassarts helped sponsor the exhibit. The Basilica is doing its part by offering exhibit space in the church, St. John XXII Gallery, and Teresa of Calcutta Hall in The Basilica’s lower level. 

Vatican exhibit curator Romina Cometti is on hand to supervise the installation. While the truck has arrived, Johan van Parys shared his excitement to finally see items only viewed in the Exhibit Catalogue by saying, “While many of us know the colorful Swiss Guard uniforms, this exhibit takes us behind the scenes for an insider’s view into the lives of these young Catholic men who dedicate at least two years to protect the Pope.” 

Johan explained that this exhibit grew out of a one time shoot by photographer Fabio Mantegna, well renowned in Italy. Mantegna received permission for an extended behind the scenes photo shoot. His incredible photographs show these young men during their training, at prayer, working out, receiving their uniforms, and joining the Swiss Guard. 

Over 80 stunning photographs serve as the exhibit’s centerpiece and could stand alone, but much more is on display. Romina Cometti interviewed the young men about why they’ve chosen to join the Swiss Guard. Quotes from her interviews accompany the photos, and the exhibit also includes artifacts from the Swiss Guards 500 year history like uniforms and security gadgets. 

Founded in 1506 by Pope Julius II, best known for commissioning the Sistine Chapel ceiling by Michelangelo, the Swiss Guard was given the express mission of protecting the Pope and the Vatican. Their historic multi-colored uniforms may distract from the seriousness of the Swiss Guards’ responsibilities. Early in the Guards history on May 6, 1527, the army of the Holy Roman Empire sacked Rome and two-thirds of the Guards were massacred defending the Pope. Succeeding in their mission, Pope Clement VII escaped with his life to Castel Sant’Angelo just outside the Vatican walls.

Today, new Swiss Guards are sworn in on May 6 to commemorate those Guards who lost their lives protecting the Pope.

THE LIFE OF A SWISS GUARD: A PRIVATE VIEW 
EXHIBIT: JUNE 3-JULY 30
RECEPTION & TALK: SUNDAY, JUNE 4, 1:00PM

Swiss Guard Exhibit Hours: Open weekends, or tours by appointment. Tours of the exhibit are not available until noon, Monday through Thursday. Tours available morning and afternoon on Fridays.

Register online at mary.org for a tour or call 612.317.3410. Exhibit catalogues will be on sale, along with a wonderful Swiss Guard cookbook which includes favorite recipes of the Guards as well as favorites of our recent Popes. 

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