Vatican Library

Exhibitions Service


Through its Exhibitions Service, the Vatican Library allows its collections of manuscripts, printed books, prints, coins and medals to be used for cultural projects which intend to promote the diffusion of knowledge. Ecclesiastical property belongs specifically to the Christian community; however, due to the universal nature of the Christian message, one can say that it also belongs to all of humanity. To promote wider knowledge of its inestimable treasures of wisdom and beauty, the Library grants a limited number of loans from its collections to the world's major museums for temporary exhibition. Such loans are granted only for projects which have a scientific purpose, or for major exhibitions of a cultural or religious nature. Human culture, or rather human cultures constitute an open field for evangelization, and form a context in which the Library gladly makes its voice heard to the men and women of our time.
The Prefect of the Library, supported by the relevant Committee and in accordance with the Regulations which have been approved by the Secretariat of State, makes a careful choice among the many requests for loans which are received every year. He also takes into account the fact that the main tasks of the Library are to preserve and transmit to posterity its precious collections, and to make them available in the Library itself for scholars from around the world to consult and study.


The “I Papi e l’unità del mondolatino. Antichità, Medioevo, Rinascimento” exhibition was held in Mannheim, at the Reiss–Engelhorn Museum.
An extensive exhibition designed to retrace the stages in the history of the papacy, from its origins to the Renaissance, highlighting its political and cultural role. The Vatican Library lent numerous works including coins, medals and manuscripts.
In March 2017, the Diocesan Museum of Paderborn organized an exhibition dedicated to Rome entitled “Le meraviglie di Roma. Lo sguardo d’Oltralpe sulle collezioni vaticane di antichità”, a city which for centuries has been a pole of earthly and spiritual history, a destination for pilgrims, scholars, philosophers, writers and artists. The exhibition described the "wonders" of Rome based on the papal collections, starting with the Lateran collection and then passing on to the Vatican collections for the centuries after the Avignon exile. Three manuscripts kept in the Vatican Apostolic Library were exhibited.
In this atmosphere of cooperation with the Vatican institutions, the Library participated in the two exhibitions organized by the Vatican Museums, in March and May 2017, “La Menorah: culto, storia e mito” and “DilectissimofratriCaesarioSymmachus. Tra Arles e Roma: le reliquie di San Cesareo, tesoro della Gallia”.The former, resulting from a work of collaboration with the Jewish Museum of Rome, was designed to tell the history, both real and symbolic, of Menorah by means of a rich articulated route, dotted with important works of art, ranging from archeology to the 21st century, from sculpture to painting, from architectural furnishings to applied arts, and from manuscripts to illustrated books. In this way, sanctioning an initiative with a high institutional profile, both political and symbolic, on the path of unity, mutual understanding, and dialogue.
Instead, the latter was conceived to recall the intense dialogue and close relations between the Provencal city and Rome since the early Christian period. St. Caesarean, Bishop of Arles (502-542) is a significant representative of this bond, as too istherole maintained by the Churchat the time of the collapse of the Western Roman Empire. The Vatican Apostolic Library lent a Carolingian code passing on the text of a letter from Pope Symmachus, who, in 513, granted the pallium to Cesarius. The opening words of this were included in the title to the exhibition since the objective was to reflect on the image of a saint andan era full of symbols, valuesand spiritual dynamism.
In November 2017, the Bible Museum was inaugurated in Washington. Eight floors dedicated to the most influential book in the history of mankind. The aim was to invite people to interact with the same, through a non-party based approach, that welcomes all the traditions or schools of thought, to underline the impact the Bible has had on America and humanity in general. The Library actively contributed to the realization of this large and complex project, collaborating in both the development of the concept, and participating in the permanent exhibition, Vatican Treasures, dedicated to the Vatican’s masterpieces. Some facsimiles specimens belonging to the Vatican Apostolic Library are on display, and a precious original, the Holy Bible of Santa Cecilia, from the 11th century ( has been temporarily exhibited. Furthermore, a temporary exhibition was heldduring the inauguration, “The Boundless Vanity of All. Ecclesiastes - Images and Ideas” , where six Piranesi prints were displayed portraying splendid views of Rome.
Of great significance, the exhibition “Vaticano: de San Pedro a Francisco. Dosmilaños de arte e historia” . This was organized to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mexico. 160 works were exhibited from various Vatican institutions such as: the Vatican Museums, the Fabric of St Peter’s, the Vatican Apostolic Library and the Papal Sacristy.
The two-thousand-year old history of the Catholic Church was retraced along a path winding its way from the section “I fondamenti della Chiesa: il sangue dei martiri” to the present day; retracing the origins and traditions of the Church of Rome through artistic creations that bear witness to devotion and faith, a 2000 year journey through history. A precious opportunity to highlight and witness, through art and culture, an ongoing dialogue and the strong cultural link existing between the Vatican City and Mexico.
Another important exhibition was the one entitled “I disegnidi Francesco Borromini nella Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana”, included as part of the celebrations for the 350th anniversary of Francesco Borromini’s death. The occasion was marked by the exhibition of a precious selection of drawings held by the Vatican Library, whose collections number important graphic and documentary testimonials of this artist.


The Exhibitions Service deals with all the steps involved in the process of planning, organizing and administering loans of works belonging to the Vatican Library. The Regulations which are currently in force require the borrower to send a request, including a description of the exhibition project, to the Secretariat of State (His Eminence Card. Tarcisio Bertone) and to the Prefect of the Library (Msgr. Cesare Pasini) at least 12 months before the inauguration of the exhibit. The total length of the loan may not exceed 4 months. The Exhibitions Committee, presided by the Prefect and made up of the heads of the relevant offices, meets four times each year to evaluate and approve the received requests. It gives special consideration to projects whose themes coincide with the interests of the Library, which has a long tradition of promoting cultural events of great artistic or religious value.

The Library participates in no more than 12 projects each year, and only loans a very limited number of objects for each one. In addition, a period of three years must pass before a given object may be loaned again. In addition to these criteria, the Library always reserves the right to refuse a request due to the exceptional age, rarity, value or frailty of an object, or to preserve it from the risks and strains involved in repeated transportation and exposition. The Regulations for Exhibition Loans clearly explain the terms and requirements under which the Vatican Library loans its objects; it should be read carefully by the borrower, signed, dated and stamped by the person responsible for the institution which is to host the exhibition, and returned to the Vatican Library. The management of loans requires a series of procedures and operations which follow a precise timeline; and all the required documents must be prepared in advance (description of the object, photographs, loan contract, insurance policy). All data regarding the subjects and the initiatives for the year are entered into a computer program which allows the Library to constantly monitor the activities of the Exhibitions Service, together with the progress and the deadlines of the procedures. These data are interfaced with those which concern each single work on loan, so that all the elements which are needed to reconstruct the history of the works, of their restorations and of their movements are always available.

The Exhibitions Service works in close collaboration with the curators of each exhibition, with the goal of coordinating the many operative aspects and the preparation of the necessary procedures and documents. Special attention is paid to security measures and to the environmental conditions required to guarantee the safeguard of the objects on loan. The organizers of the exhibition must take out a special insurance policy known as "nail to nail", with the Library as beneficiary, against "all risks", and is responsible for any damage done to the works during their absence from the Library.
The Exhibitions Service also aims to ensure that all necessary precautions are taken at both ends during the operations of delivery, packing, unpacking, inspection and setup of the exhibit, in order to maintain the state of conservation of the works even as they pass through "critical" environments, different from their normal conservation environment, during transport and during the time they spend in the host institution. In order to guarantee the application of all the conditions stipulated in the Regulations for Exhibition Loans, loaned works are always accompanied by a courier who is a staff member of the Library and who assists in unpacking, verifies the state of conservation of the works on loan and ensures that they are displayed in an appropriate manner in the host institution.

Contact details

  • English 
Vatican Library - Cortile del Belvedere - V-00120 Vatican CityPrivacy Policy | Cookie Policy