Expo 2020 Dubai: Rare manuscripts and paintings on display at Holy See Pavilion

Did you know that there is a difference between Holy See and Vatican?



Photo: Screenshot
Photo: Screenshot

By Mahwash Ajaz

Published: Tue 14 Dec 2021, 11:07 AM

Last updated: Wed 15 Dec 2021, 10:19 AM

One of the many intriguing attractions at Expo 2020 Dubai is the Holy See Pavilion. It is home to precious manuscripts more than 1,000 years old that have left the Vatican archives for the first time to be displayed.

The pavilion is named after the governing body of the Roman Catholic Church.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

One of the first things you see at the gate of the Holy See Pavilion at the Expo 2020 Dubai is a Swiss guard.

As per tradition, this Swiss guard has to be an unmarried male between 18 to 30 years of age and should have basic training with the Swiss Armed Forces.

Dressed in blue, yellow and red, the statue of the guard welcomes into the Holy See Pavilion at the entrance.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The pavilion was designed by Giuseppe Di Nicola (DiNicolaDesign). As you move forward, you begin to discover the facts and historical moments about the Holy See and the Vatican.

Did you know that the Holy See is an overseeing governmental body, and the Vatican is the name of the city it governs?

The Holy See is the ‘jurisdiction’ of the Pope and maintains diplomatic relations with other states and non-governmental bodies such as the United Nations.

The word ‘see’ from the ‘Holy See’ phrase comes from the Latin word ‘sedes’, which means ‘seat’. The ‘seat’ here refers to the throne of the cathedral.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The pavilion outlines many important moments in history. One such painting documents the encounter between St. Francis of Assisi met Sultan Malek al-Kamil of Egypt.

During the Crusades, St. Francis had left Assisi to meet the Sultan in Damietta, Egypt.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

We move further to a circular installation structured with human figurines all holding hands - a show of unity. This is a frame that has a mirror within and reflects your face.

It symbolises how you can see yourself and connect to the larger message of humanity and brotherhood.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

Another artefact awaits you is a manuscript from the Bayt al Hikmah or the House of Wisdom from Baghdad.

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Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

An interactive booth is for you to discover how the Dominican priest Ignazio Danti (who has created map rooms in the Vatican Museum) painted walls with frescoes that depicted winds blowing in biblical settings.

Danti created a strip of a white line on the floor that showed the due north and south.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

A figurative statuette also stands at the far corner of the pavilion that depicts unity and brotherhood uniquely. It has four arches with human figurines holding hands underneath.

One arch represents Indian-Arabic, the next is Gothic, another is Roman and the last is the Dubai Frame.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

A small enclosed room has the painting of God and Adam at the top with arches and lines of wood with light streaming in surrounding it.

These lines depict ‘blessings of God’ and how they are showered upon human beings throughout their lives.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

A film plays at the end of the hall where different sufferings of human beings are shown as a slideshow. Ranging from the sub-Saharan countries to the Arab world as well as conflicts and wars in the rest of the world, the haunting images tell you about how the world needs more compassion and solidarity rather than wars and conflict.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

Another film showcases the meeting of the Pope Francis and His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, in 2019.

Photo: Mahwash Ajaz
Photo: Mahwash Ajaz

The wall also shows the iconic photo of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum with the Grand Imam and the Pope in 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

There is an iconic photograph His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, with the Grand Imam of al-Azhar Ahmed Al-Tayeb and the Pope Francis in 2019 in Abu Dhabi.

For more information, the pavilion has a detailed video. There is also an app that you can download to know more about the pavilion.

Located in the Mobility Pavilion, this is a wonderful gem that deserves a visit from everyone who’s visiting the Expo 2020 Dubai.


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