An impressive exhibit of 2,000 years of papal history, from St. Peter to Pope John Paul II, will make its way to North America this summer.

“St. Peter and the Vatican: The Legacy of the Popes” will be on display from June 4 to Sept. 18 in the crypt of Montreal’s historic Notre Dame Basilica. This will be the tour’s only Canadian stop.

The three-month exhibit will feature more than 300 pieces of Vatican art, artifacts and documents. It is based on similar four-city tour of the United States in 2003-04, but organizers say 70 per cent of the pieces in the current exhibit have never traveled to North America.

The exhibit is organized chronologically into 12 thematic galleries. In the first gallery, visitors can read a welcome letter by Pope John Paul II and watch a video on the discovery of St. Peter’s tomb in 1968.

What follows is a reproduction of St. Peter’s tomb and another three galleries dedicated to the early Church. The exhibit then fast-forwards to the Renaissance period and includes a section devoted to the Sistine Chapel. There, visitors can learn how Michelangelo painted the chapel ceiling, with a representation of the chapel and the scaffolding.

The exhibit then explores the papacies of the modern times, from the 19th century to the present day.

The artwork includes the simple and colorful mosaics of Sts. Peter and Paul, from the 6th and 8th centuries. There is the mosaic, Bust of an Angel, attributed to 14th-century painter Giotto, and Bernini’s terracotta bust of Old Testament prophet Habakkuk.

One of the biggest draws is a 5th-century image of the face of Jesus on cloth, called the Mandylion of Edessa. The image, taken from the private quarters of the pontifical sacristy, is one of the most ancient representations of the face of Christ and is as renowned as the Shroud of Turin.

The exhibit also includes Vatican treasures, such as chalices of gold, embedded with diamonds, and the papal tiaras of Pope Pius VII (1800-1823) and Pope Pius IX (1846-1878). Pius IX received his tiara, which includes one of the largest emeralds in the world, from Napoleon in 1804.

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The exhibit concludes with a gallery called Into the New Millennium, which pays tribute to the current pontiff. It features John Paul II’s pastoral staff and the cape he wore for the Jubilee Year. According to event organizers, this is the first time the pope’s silver staff has ever left the Vatican without him.

Visitors are also invited to touch a bronze cast of John Paul II’s hands, which the pope had commissioned in 2002. Organizers say the pope included the bronze cast as a sign of his greeting.

Tickets cost $15 for adults and $6 for children 6 to 11. Due to the great interest expressed in the exhibit, tickets are already on sale. For information, go to: