Following those of Milan, Naples, Caltagirone and Santo Domingo, the Diocesan Museum of Ischia is the latest to enter into dialogue with the Vatican Museums regarding the new exhibition project that from December 7, in the Pius-Christian Museum, will focus on the sarcophagi of Bethesda.
This is a particular type of sarcophagus that was widespread at the end of the fourth century along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea, with evidence – after Rome – in the cities of Gaul, Spain, the coast of Africa and, in Italy, indeed in Ischia. It provides further confirmation of the role that Mare nostrum has always had in history as a place of cultural exchange, knowledge and, later, as a theatre for the spread of the Gospel and the production of forms of artistic expression of Christian inspiration.
The Museum of Ischia and that of the Pope are therefore not only united by the same mission and affinity of purpose, but also by the fortunate circumstance of conserving twin works: two very rare examples of the art of the first Christian centuries, two sarcophagi adorned with relief scenes that have as their centre the representation of Jesus healing the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda. They are compared for the first time, after careful restoration, in a joint exhibition that is also an opportunity to study further the few existing examples of this type of art and to consider their spread in the ancient Christian world, as well as to meditate on the deeper content that they also transmit to us contemporaries.
Open to the public until 30 June, the exhibition will then be transferred to the Phlegraean island, where, thanks to the special attention and collaboration of Msgr. Lagnese, it will be possible “to restore this dialogue”, said Director Barbara Jatta, “to the many there who want to admire an important piece of our common history”.
The exhibition is curated by Umberto Utro and Alessandro Vella, Directors of the Christian Antiquities Department of the Vatican Museums, in collaboration with Don Emanuel Monte, Director of the Diocesan Museum of Ischia.
Umberto Utro is also the author of the exhibition catalogue, published jointly by Edizioni Musei Vaticani and Libreria Editrice Vaticana.