Vatican artifacts on display at Milwaukee museum

A magnificent exhibit of more than 300 priceless Vatican artifacts has made its way to the Milwaukee Public Museum.

The exhibit, called The Legacy of the Popes, has been on a North American tour, stopping in Houston, Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., Cincinnati, San Diego, Montreal and San Antonio before its arrival in Milwaukee. It is expected to attract about 120,000 visitors before it returns to the Vatican May 7.

Most of the artifacts were released from the permanent collections of the Vatican museums. A few of the more memorable pieces include a bronze cast of Pope John Paul II's hand, made in 2002, the objects used during the election of Pope Benedict XVI, such as the canister that produced the black and white smoke, and robes and headwear from popes dating back to the 1800s.

The Mandylion of Edessa is also attracting much attention. It is a small piece of linen in a frame of gold and jewels that dates back to the third to fifth century. On it is the imprint of a face, said to be that of Jesus. .

There is also a section of the exhibit that replicates the scaffolding Michelangelo used to paint the Sistine Chapel. Other artifacts include gifts that the popes have received from various historical figures, including Napoleon and the Dalai Lama.

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