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‘We are much more”: Vatican Museums urges visitors to explore beyond the Sistine Chapel

Barbara Jatta, the first female head of the Vatican Museums, encourages visitors at the Vatican to explore beyond the Sistine Chapel and appreciate the often overlooked yet breathtaking attractions. Despite the tendency of many visitors to prioritize the Sistine Chapel, Jatta hopes to redirect their attention to the museum’s other remarkable treasures. Among them is a 17th-century apothecary and pharmacy run by Benedictine nuns belonging to the Monastery of St. Cecilia in the Trastevere district of Rome. Since May 25, the pharmacy, which operated until 1936, has been reopened to the public. It has been meticulously reconstructed and now showcases a collection of items from the 17th and 18th centuries. The cabinet shelves are adorned with numerous exquisitely embellished blue-and-white ceramic jars. These jars were originally utilized to store medicinal plants and herbs, offering remedies for a wide range of ailments ranging from insect bites to urinary tract infections.

Reuters reports:

VATICAN CITY, May 30 (Reuters) – Barbara Jatta, the first woman to head the Vatican Museums, wants visitors to avoid being suffocated by the crowds and take in the lesser-known – but spectacular – attractions she helps to oversee.

The Vatican Museums, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that closed or limited openings during the COVID-19 pandemic, have almost returned to their pre-pandemic level of about six million visitors a year.

Many, particularly day trippers on fast-paced package tours of Rome, head straight for the Sistine Chapel, bypassing the museums’ other wonders.

“Not everyone in the Sistine Chapel. Please! We are much more,” she told Reuters at the opening of an exhibition of ceramics within metres of Michelangelo’s frescoed masterpiece.

“We have so many things that speak of history, it is important to get to know them too,” added Jatta, 60.

They include a 17th-century pharmacy and apothecary that was run by Benedictine nuns in the Monastery of St. Cecilia in Rome’s Trastevere district.

Open to the public since May 25, the pharmacy that served the public until 1936 has been reassembled with contents dating from the 17th and 18th centuries.

Cabinet shelves are filled with dozens of finely decorated blue-and-white ceramic jars that once held medicinal plants and herbs used to treat anything from insect bites to urinary infections.

The exhibition also includes tools for cutting and pressing the plants and extracting their essential essences. The nuns fashioned a large stone mortar from the capital of an ancient Roman column.

Read the full article here.

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