This year marks the 40th anniversary of the founding of the Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums, an international organization of benefactors who, forty years ago, embraced the mission of the Vatican Museums. “Preserving in order to share”, therefore, the heritage of art, history and faith that is preserved in the papal collections, generously supporting the conservation and enhancement of the vast and unique art collection of the Pope’s Museums.
During these days, from 6 to 10 November 2023, the Patrons will be in Rome, and in the Vatican, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their founding and, together, the general state of their activity. Their story began in 1982, when the Holy See promoted the travelling exhibition “The Vatican Collections. The Papacy and Art” in the United States. Those treasures, displayed for the admiration of American visitors, inspired in many of them the desire to participate, to make themselves useful with the pride of belonging and with charitable donations. Throughout these four decades, the number of associates has gradually grown, developing intense fundraising activity in much of the United States of America, and also in Europe and Asia.
Let us mention here the most important restoration projects made possible by their magnanimity: from the famous frescoes of the Raphael Rooms and the Gallery of the Geographical Maps to the Pauline Chapel, from the Gallery of the Candelabra to the Vatican Gardens, from the Pontifical Sanctuary of the Holy Stairs to Bramante’s Courtyard of the Pinecone, from the Hall of Constantine to the Ethnological Museum Anima Mundi. Monumental projects therefore, but also the restoration of hundreds of paintings, sculptures, tapestries and objects of medieval, Renaissance, Baroque and modern decorative art. The Patrons strongly support the Museum’s nine different restoration, research and conservation laboratories, without forgetting what exists outside the Museums, such as the ceiling frescoes in the sanctuary of the Holy Stairs or the archaeological site brought to light beneath the Basilica of St. Paul Outside-the-Walls.
The Director of the Vatican Museums, Barbara Jatta, often likes to recall that “patrons”, despite being an English word, has its etymological origin in the Latin “pater”, emphasizing that theirs is not simply generosity, but something more, and different. It is a form of emotional relationship with the characteristics of familiarity and paternity: “Being Patrons of the Arts in the Vatican Museums means being, in a certain sense, the fathers and hence the guarantors and custodians of the heritage of history, culture, and faith that the Church has entrusted to us so that we might conserve, respect and honour it. With these sentiments of gratitude, the Pope’s Museums welcome the Patrons on the fortieth anniversary of their founding”.