Exhibit offers peek inside Vaticanís 'splendors'

PITTSBURGH -- The entrance to the Vatican Splendors exhibit evokes a part of St. Peter’s Basilica that few tourists ever see: the archaeological excavation beneath the altar, where the modest grave of St. Peter lies amid elaborate first-century pagan mausoleums.

The choice of beginning with the grave of Peter, the first pope, reflects organizers’ hopes that the visit be a spiritual as well as aesthetic experience.

“In a certain sense, Jesus Christ will walk with us through the exhibition. The other person who will walk with us is St. Peter,” said Msgr. Roberto Zagnoli, the curator and director of the ethnological department of the Vatican Museums.

Nearly 300 artworks and artifacts of the Vatican Splendors exhibit will be on display here until Jan. 9, when it will move and reopen Jan. 29 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before returning to the Vatican.

Ticket and tour information for both venues is at http://www.vaticansplendors.com.