Vatican, Rome Jewish Museum collaborate on menorah exhibition

Ruth Ellen Gruber

(JTA) – The Vatican Museum and the Rome Jewish Museum will hold an unprecedented joint exhibition, centered on the image and history of the menorah – the candelabra that is one of the most ancient and enduring symbols of Judaism

Titled “Menorah: Cult, History and Myth,” the exhibit, which took 3-1/2 years to develop, will run from May 15 to July 23. Part of it will be installed in the Vatican Museum’ s Carlo Magno exhibition space in St. Peters Square, and part of it in the Rome Jewish Museum, located in the complex of the city’s Great Synagogue.

Some 130 paintings, sculptures, illustrations, and other depictions of menorahs from around the world will be included in the exhibition.

Organizers said the joint exhibit reflects the continuing dialogue between the Vatican and the Jewish world.

A statement issued at the presentation of the exhibit in Rome on Monday said the exhibit “recounts the multi-millennia, incredible and suffered history of the menorah.”

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“The menorah is a sort of logo of the Jewish people,” Rome Chief Rabbi Riccardo Di Segni said.

One of the goals of the exhibit, organizers said, was to explore the legend of the seven-branched solid gold menorah from the Temple in Jerusalem that was brought to Rome as a spoil of war when the Romans sacked the Temple in 70 C.E. The scene of the menorah being carried into Rome as a trophy along with Jewish slaves is famously depicted on the ancient Arch of Titus.

The Temple menorah disappeared in the fifth century after vandals sacked Rome in 455. Legends persist that it was either thrown into the Tiber River or hidden away in the Vatican.