Michelangelo’s Pietà is among the most famous works of art in the Vatican 

By Devin Watkins

Nov 23 2023

Pope Francis sends a message to participants in a Vatican conference on the architectural heritage of the Holy See, and upholds the beauty of art as a reflection of the harmonious communion between humanity and God.

The Vatican hosted a conference on Wednesday entitled “The Commission for the Protection of Monuments and the Safeguarding of the Architectural Heritage of the Holy See: 100 Years of Activity (1923-2023)”.

Pope Francis sent his greetings to participants in the study day in a message addressed to Prof. Francesco Buranelli, the Commission’s president.

Church’s contribution to cultural conservation

In his message, the Pope highlighted the importance of caring for the historical and artistic heritage of the Holy See and Vatican City State.

He noted that the widely-held desire to conserve and protect humanity’s cultural heritage originally grew out of the ancient states of the Italian peninsula, especially the Pontifical State.

As far back as the 15th century, the Popes issued edicts aimed at stemming the flow of antiquities from Rome’s archaeological excavations to the private collections of nobles, scholars, and sovereigns throughout Europe.

Pope Francis recalled that several 17th and 18th century Popes issued decrees “as a reaction to the sale of a large number of works of art and to repair the traumatic spoliation of the Napoleonic era”.

These edicts and papal Chirographs helped develop legal principles which were adopted by modern parliaments.

“Among these,” he said, “the concept of the public utility of cultural heritage stands out – from publica utilitas, a concept from Roman Law – according to which not only public but also private property is subject to the needs of the common good.”

The Pope added that modern States have assumed the right to regulate and catalogue works of art and architectural heritage for its protection and for the enjoyment of all.

Art as expression of proclamation of faith

The Pope went on to recall that the Holy See adopted a law in 2001 to safeguard its own cultural assets.

He said the regulation would soon be updated to “correspond effectively to changed historical and social conditions, as well as to the evolution of both internal legislation and that of international organizations.”

Citing Pope Benedict XVI, Pope Francis said the Church has “always supported and promoted the world of art, considering its language a privileged vehicle for human and spiritual progress.”

Art, he added, is a tangible sign of the “transitus Domini” in the world, that is, “a visible expression of the life of the Church in its liturgical action and in the proclamation of the faith, in various spiritual manifestations, and in the exercise of charity.”

In conclusion, Pope Francis thanked the members of the Permanent Commission for the Protection of Monuments and the Safeguarding of the Architectural Heritage of the Holy See for their work.

“I express my best wishes for the responsible and professional continuation of showing the beauty of art, which is a reflection of the harmonious communion between man and God.” – Vatican News