PHILADELPHIA (AP) – Visitors coming to Philadelphia to see the pope this September will also be able to view treasured art from the Vatican.
"Vatican Splendors" opens Sept. 19 at the Franklin Institute. It will include artwork by Michelangelo, embroidered silk vestments, religious relics and bone fragments of Saints Peter and Paul, and a touchable cast of Pope John Paul II's hand.
The exhibit traces the evolution of the Roman Catholic Church over 2,000 years through 11 galleries that include objects such as mosaics, frescoes, maps and documents. Galleries aim to recreate environments such as catacombs and the papal chambers. Organizers say they want the exhibits to be a multisensory experience.
Pope Francis plans to visit Philadelphia in September for the World Meeting of Families, an international gathering for Catholics aimed at strengthening family bonds.
Larry Dubinski, the Franklin Institute's chief executive, said being able to have the exhibit in Philadelphia during the World Meeting of Families and the pope's visit will give it additional impact.
"Vatican Splendors" has traveled to other U.S. cities in recent years, but organizers said 40 percent of the items are new to this tour, and it has grown in size. About 200 items will be on display.
Organizers have already begun planning lectures, tours and interactive programming.
"It is such a gift to Philadelphia. So many people who otherwise would have to travel to another continent get to experience firsthand the culture and art of the Vatican," said Donna Crilley Farrell, executive director of World Meeting of Families.
The Franklin Institute, a science museum named after Benjamin Franklin, is the exhibition's first stop on a two-city North American tour and the only stop on the East Coast, the institute said. The other stop has not yet been announced.
The museum is just a few blocks from where the pope will celebrate an outdoor Mass on Sept. 27.
The exhibit will remain in Philadelphia through Feb. 15.