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Vatican, Jewish museums explore menorah in art and dark legend


  • A bust of Roman Emperor Titus is pictured next to a replica of the 1st-century Arch of Titus, showing Roman soldiers carrying the menorah, in a exhibition at the Vatican May 15. The replica of the Arch of Titus is the central motif in a two-part exhibition on the menorah at the Vatican and at the Jewish Museum in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • A journalist looks at a replica of the 1st-century Arch of Titus, showing Roman soldiers carrying the menorah, in a exhibition at the Vatican May 15. The replica is the central motif in a two-part exhibition on the menorah at the Vatican and at the Jewish Museum in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • The Bible of St. Paul Outside the Walls, dating from the 9th century, is included in a two-part exhibition on the menorah at the Vatican May 15. The second part of the exhibition, which runs through July 23, is at the Jewish Museum in Rome. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
  • The Latin word, "candelabro," believed to refer to the menorah taken by the Romans from Jerusalem in the 1st century, is seen on a 37-line mosaic inscription from the 13th century at the Jewish Museum in Rome May 15. The inscription describes treasures supposedly buried under the Basilica of St. John Lateran in Rome. The inscription is part of a two-part exhibition on the menorah at the Vatican and at the Jewish Museum. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)

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VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican Museums and the Jewish Museum of Rome are exploring together the significance of the menorah, although they also give a nod to the centuries-old legend that the Vatican is hiding the golden menorah from the Temple of Jerusalem.

A two-part exhibition, one at the Vatican and the other at the Jewish Museum of Rome, prominently features a replica of the 1st-century Arch of Titus, showing Roman soldiers carrying the menorah and other treasures into Rome.

From a coin minted in the century before Christ's birth to a 1987 Israeli comic book featuring a superhero with a menorah on his chest, the exhibit, "The Menorah: Worship, History and Myth," documents the use of the seven-branched candelabra both as a religious item and a symbol of Jewish identity.

The exhibit is scheduled to be open through July 23. One ticket includes admission to the main part of the exhibit in the Charlemagne Wing just off St. Peter's Square and to the Jewish Museum, located about a mile away at Rome's main synagogue.

Among the pieces displayed at the Jewish Museum stands a towering mosaic inscription describing treasures buried at the Basilica of St. John Lateran, the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome. Dating from the 13th century, while the Crusades were raging, the mosaic's 37-line inventory includes "the golden candelabrum" Titus brought to Rome.

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