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Rome Reports

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Vatican reopens and renames Ethnological Museum


The Vatican reopened the doors of its spectacular Ethnological Museum. It is still in the Vatican Museums, but its new name is “Anima Mundi.”

BARBARA JATTA
Vatican Museums Director

“'Anima Mundi' is a wonderful expression declaring this the place where the soul of the world is, according to the wishes of Pope Francis. Each visitor can find at least a small part of his or her cultural, religious and spiritual identity.”

FR. NICOLA MAPELLI
Ethnological Museum Anima Mundi Director

“'Anima Mundi' means soul of the world. When we display objects, we don't display a dead reality, but something that expresses the spirit of a culture through its art.”

For now only the collection on Australia and New Zealand is open, which is geographically the farthest from the Vatican.

It is worth going even if just to see this impressive crown of cockatoo feathers from Papua New Guinea. It was made using a secret technique.

There are also weapons, masks, and figurines.

One of the most important is this wood carving of the god Tu from Polynesia. It is a very rare object carved out entirely from one piece. It is the first object from that region to be sent to the Vatican. It was given to Pope Gregory XVI in 1837.

Another important piece is this manuscript. 

FR. NICOLA MAPELLI
Ethnological Museum Anima Mundi Director

“The Māori people of New Zealand sent it in 1904 when Pope Leo XIII died and was succeeded by Pius X. That is why the Māori portray Pius X and wish him the best for his pontificate. We travelled to New Zealand to meet the descendants of the people who wrote this manuscript. They helped us translate it from Māori. It is one of the first written works.”

Many of these objects were gifts to the acting pope from peoples and cultures far from Rome.

Others come from the great exhibition organized by Pius XI in 1925 to foster knowledge and appreciation for artistic and spiritual traditions of isolated populations.

Back then, one million people visited this place annually.

Its success will remain, given that the Vatican Museums welcome about 6,750,000 tourists each year.