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Vatican artifacts make only West Coast stop at the Reagan Library

In the 1980s, President Reagan and Pope John Paul II forged a faith-based friendship as they fought communism and the former Soviet Union.

The legacies of these two men come together at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley as it hosts the only West Coast stop of "Vatican Splendors: A Journey Through Faith and Art," which debuted last year in Philadelphia. 

Among the items on display is a cast of John Paul II's hand -- one of the few artifacts visitors are encouraged to touch.

The exhibition's opening was delayed because of the March 6 death of former first lady Nancy Reagan, whose funeral was held at the site last week.

The Vatican show opened last Sunday and is to continue through Aug. 28.

Mark Greenberg, president of Evergreen Exhibitions, the company that created the show, said more than 200 works of art and historically significant objects are displayed at the library-museum. Most visitors to Rome never see these relics and items because they are seldom on public display.

The exhibit is designed to transport visitors to the Vatican through its presentation of rare objects and re-created environments that are designed to enhance a visitor’s understanding, Greenberg said. 

The show at the Reagan Library includes a few additional artifacts not seen in Philadelphia, including an unfinished bas relief created by Michelangelo toward the end of his life.

There's also a re-creation of the Sistine Chapel that gives visitors a view from 10 feet away so they can see the ceiling as Michelangelo may have seen it as he painted.

A rare letter from the artist is on display as well. 

"A signed document from Michelangelo shows the tenuous relationship he had with Pope Julius II, who continually pushed for a completion date for the project," Greenberg said. "In the letter, Michelangelo complains about the quality of materials [from] the suppliers the pope has brought on to assist him -- that they are not the best quality for what the pope is paying."
 
Cost: $29 for adult (17 and older) tickets, with discounts for children, seniors, etc. Timed admission tickets can be purchased online or in person, and include entrance to the main museum and the Air Force One Pavilion.
 
Info: The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library, 40 Presidential Drive, Simi Valley, (805) 577-4066, ext. 74066

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