Lost Vatican manuscripts go on display in Dallas

Fri Jan 21, 2011 2:14pm EST
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By Ed Stoddard

DALLAS (Reuters Life!) - Rare, lavishly-illustrated manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel that were rescued from Napoleon's army, only to fall under the radar screen of art history for two centuries, go on display in Dallas on Sunday.

The exhibit at Southern Methodist University's Meadows Museum, which will run until April 23, is the only chance for the U.S. public to see the stunning, hand-made codices or manuscripts.

"The Lost Manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel: An Epic Journey from Rome to Toledo" features 40 codices that range in date from the 11th to the 18th century.

"These were in the Sacristy of the Sistine Chapel so these were the most private books read by the popes and cardinals at very special ceremonies. There are some codices here that Michelangelo would have heard or read from," said Meadows director Mark Roglan.

"All of them are one of a kind ... and done by hand. It is an art," he said as he pointed to some of the precious books, encased in glass.

Aside from their artistic value, the writings in the codices are liturgical treasure troves which include blessings, missals and preparations for masses.

Their journey to Dallas has been improbable.

They were looted at the end of the 18th century from the Vatican by Napoleon's rampaging armies and many were sliced and diced and sold in fragments.   Continued...

<p>A crucifixion scene from a late 15th century Vatican manuscript that is among those rescued from Napoleon's armies and rediscovered in the late 1990s is seen in this photograph released to Reuters on January 21, 2011. REUTERS/Meadows Museum/Handout</p>