Come enjoy FREE admission to the Meadows Museum on the SMU campus in Dallas on Thursday evenings from 5pm-9pm. They are now exhibiting The Lost Manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel: An Epic Journey from Rome to Toledo. This exhibition spotlights the Sistine Sacristy Collection by showcasing over 40 of the finest codices purchased by Lorenzana in 1798, most of which have never before been on view.
In the waning years of the 18th century, Napoleon Bonaparte’s military prowess enabled him to lead the French army to Italy, where he victoriously occupied Rome in 1798. The cobblestone streets of the Eternal City soon bore witness to a looting so widespread that even the Vatican was not immune, and eventually the Sacristy of the Sistine Chapel, perhaps the most famous chapel in the history of art, was stripped of its renowned collection of codices (illuminated manuscripts).
In this turbulent climate, one of Spain’s most prominent and illustrious religious leaders—Cardinal Francesco Antonio José de Lorenzana y Buitrón (1722- 1804), Archbishop of Toledo, Primate of Spain, and Ambassador of King Charles IV to the Holy See—boldly took the initiative to preserve a portion of the Sistine Sacristy Collection before it was scattered any further. In 1798, he negotiated the acquisition of a magnificent ensemble of codices which he subsequently donated for posterity to the Biblioteca Capitular de Toledo in Spain.
A large number of these codices have recently been catalogued and studied in depth at the Biblioteca Capitular de Toledo as well as two other major Spanish institutions: the Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha in Toledo and the Biblioteca Nacional de España in Madrid. Remarkably, many are in perfect condition. They provide an unparalleled opportunity for scholars to reconstruct the splendor of one of the most valuable collections of the papal liturgical heritage.
In January 2011, the Meadows Museum welcomes The Lost Manuscripts from the Sistine Chapel: An Epic Journey from Rome to Toledo, an exhibition organized through partnerships with the Centro de Estudios Europa Hispánica, the Biblioteca Nacional de España, the Biblioteca de Castilla-La Mancha, the Catedral de Toledo, and the Palacio Arzobispal de Toledo. Curated by two Italian scholars, Dr. Elena De Laurentiis and Emilia Anna Talamo, this exhibition spotlights the Sistine Sacristy Collection by showcasing over 40 of the finest codices purchased by Lorenzana in 1798, most of which have never before been on view.
The books were illustrated using the finest materials available to the papal scriptorium (the manuscript workshop) and range in date from the 11th to the 18th century. Together they encompass a breadth of the standard liturgical writings used by the Catholic Church—including benedictionals, blessings, breviaries, epistolaries, evangelistaries, missals, and preparations for mass—and include both complete and reused codices (manuscripts in which folios from other manuscripts have been inserted). Not surprisingly, the artistic and political considerations in their production are equally compelling.