WASHINGTON — A new exhibit offers Christians the opportunity to embark on a spiritual journey and deepen their understanding of the history of pilgrimage at the Museum of the Bible.
The Museum of the Bible’s new exhibit, “A Journey of Faith: The Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome,” details the history behind these churches and features a variety of books and artwork on loan from the Vatican Museum and Library.
The exhibit will run from May 12 to Sept. 10.
“For centuries, pilgrims from all corners of Europe have journeyed to Rome with the purpose of visiting the Seven Pilgrim Churches and the relics they house,” said Corinna Ricasoli, the museum’s consultant curator of fine arts, explaining in a video shown to attendees that the exhibit’s purpose is to showcase the “history, impact and beauty” of the seven churches.
“Pilgrimage is not only a physical expedition but also a spiritual one that strengthens the connection between devotees and their faith, deepening their bond with the divine,” she added. The Museum of the Bible’s exhibit “A Journey of Faith: The Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome,” in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2023. | The Christian Post/Samantha Kamman
Ricasoli emphasized that these churches are more than physical structures, the buildings “bear witness to the profound influence of faith and the transformative power of pilgrimage.”
The consultant curator also explained that prior to the Jubilee in 2000, the seven churches originally consisted of the Basilica of St. John Lateran, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Basilica of Saint Paul Outside the Walls, Basilica of St. Mary Major, the Basilica of Saint Lawrence outside the Walls, the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem and St. Sebastian Outside-the-Walls. However, in the year 2000, Pope Saint John Paul II replaced the St. Sebastian church with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Divine Love.
A representative of the Vatican Library Exhibitions Office, Maria Adalgisa Ottaviani, also spoke during the presentation, stating that the exhibit serves as a reminder of a custom that has fallen into “disuse,” referring to pilgrimage.
Lead Curator of Art and Exhibitions, Amy Van Dyke, hopes that the exhibit will provide Christians with the opportunity to embark on a “virtual pilgrimage.”
“The idea of a journey of faith or a pilgrimage to visit sacred sites is something that’s very important to the Catholic religion, but also to any Christian that wants to feel connected to their history and their faith,” Van Dyke told The Christian Post. “And in this way, we hope to bring a little bit of that here so that people can go through and see the prints and view the churches and go on their own virtual pilgrimage through here and understand how important pilgrimage really is to the faith.”
The Museum of the Bible’s exhibit “A Journey of Faith: The Seven Pilgrim Churches of Rome” in Washington, D.C., May 11, 2023. | The Christian Post/Samantha KAccording to Van Dyke, the museum started planning the exhibit a year ago and requested that the Vatican Library loan them pieces for the exhibit within the same ound six months ago, the museum began its in-depth planning process to plan the exhibit’s design and make shipping arrangements. The exhibit installation finally happened earlier this week, according to Van Dyke.
The curator explained the multi-collaborative effort behind putting the exhibit together. Ricasoli handled the main curation of the exhibit, while Van Dyke took care of the management.
“So we have an exhibit team that helped with the installation, we have a registration team and conservators that also helped with the installation and the shipping of everything, and then we have an events team putting the event on tonight,” she said. “So, really, it was a large effort by many.”
Jeffrey Kloha, the Museum of the Bible’s chief curatorial officer, said he believes the exhibit will help encourage Christians to step away from their busy work lives for a while and remind themselves about how to serve others through the example of the saint-honored churches.
“I think what this exhibit highlights, in addition to just the beautiful prints and the churches, is the discipline of pilgrimage and the recognition that there are holy places and holy times in a way to step back, reflect and learn from those who have gone before us and bring that into practice in our lives,” he said.
Kloha provided more details about the marketing of the exhibit, sharing how, in addition to social media and press releases, the museum is offering programs to schools. Kloha described the activities for students as a “hands-on experience,” one of which involves a treasure hunt of sorts that has students examine prints.
“It gives children a way to interact with the print in a way that they wouldn’t, right? To look at it closely, and then you can teach them more about what it actually is once they’re engaged,” he said.