Ancient spices and precious ceramics
Ancient spices and precious ceramics

Ancient spices and precious ceramics

The Vatican Museums unveil two new rooms

Thursday 25 May 2023 | 04.00 p.m.
Vatican Museums Conference Hall – in person and live streaming

The Pope's Museums will celebrate a dual event on 25 May in the now customary Thursdays in the Museums appointment. Two new spaces - as well as their hitherto hidden treasures - will in fact be unveiled to the public for the first time after a long and complex period of study, research, restoration and museum planning: the Apothecary of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere and the Ceramics Hall. The day will also be enhanced by the presentation of the first catalogue raisonné on the papal collection of Ceramiche medievali e moderne (medieval and modern Ceramics), edited by Otto Mazzucato and Luca Pesante.

From 25 May, all visitors exiting the Sistine Chapel will therefore be awaited by - along the route through the decorative arts collections - the two new rooms that have been newly converted into a museum space and can be seen through a precious carved door, at the moment, not yet passable (access on request, for study or guided tour). Immediately catching the eye, for its beauty and uniqueness, is the complex of the ancient Apothecary of the monastery of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, which is connected to the adjacent basilica of which Cardinal Sfondrati (1560-1618) was titular for thirty years: a unique example of its kind for the integrity of the apothecary's equipment, in use uninterruptedly from the beginning of the seventeenth century until 1936, the year of its transfer to the Vatican at the behest of Pope Pius XI. Indeed, the sudden change of location almost magically preserved the activity of the Trastevere pharmacy in time, and prevented its dispersion, thereby conserving objects and ingredients (many of which are still contained inside the jars) once used to make medicines.
A door inside the ancient apothecary shop leads instead to the second room, the Ceramics Hall, which was also the subject of a modern exhibition plan to house for the first time in its entirety, and on a permanent basis, the Vatican's collection of medieval and modern ceramics, so well documented in the catalogue just published by Edizioni Musei Vaticani. Among the most significant works on display will be the 34 precious historiated plates from the Carpegna Collection (already exhibited in the Vatican Pinacoteca in 2018 and at Castel Gandolfo between 2019 and 2021), the medieval tableware in fine ceramics, the very rare examples of paving tiles in archaic majolica or the series of Della Robbia floor tiles that were part of the flooring of the so-called “Raphael” Vatican Loggias.

The Thursday conference will start at 04.00 p.m. with the usual introduction by the Director of the Vatican Museums Barbara Jatta. All the speakers who, in different capacities and over the years, have contributed to the realization of this complex and multi-faceted project will then take the floor: Claudia Lega, Curator of the Department of Decorative Arts, Luca Pesante, Assistant to the same Department, Angelica Mazzucato, Restorer at the Metal and Ceramic Restoration Laboratory and Maria Serlupi Crescenzi, former Curator of the Department of Decorative Arts. The meeting will be brought to a close by the Abbess of the Monastery of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere, Mother Maria Giovanna Valenziano.