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Petrus Mallius, Paolo De Angelis, & Bernardini Tani, Basilicae veteris Vaticanae descriptio avctore Romano eiusdem Basilicae canonico (Rome, 1646).

Make a pilgrimage to the Milton S. Eisenhower Library’s M-level for JUBILEE: Roman Catholic Pilgrimage Culture in Papal Rome, 1500 – 1675, a rare book exhibition featuring beautifully illustrated books from the Italian Renaissance. The curator, senior Taylor Alessio, will give at talk about the exhibition on M-level at noon on Friday, April 29. Stop by and hear about her experiences working with rare books and contact relics.

These volumes from our special collections illustrate important aspects of Papal Jubilee years of the 16th and 17th centuries. The exhibition coincides with Pope Francis’ recent declaration of an “Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy” throughout the Catholic world (December 9, 2015 to November 20, 2016), and brings exhibition visitors back in time to the origins of this important tradition.

Senior Taylor Alessio followed her passion for this aspect of European and Catholic history from the classroom to the Special Collections Reading Room. Alessio, a History of Art major in the Krieger School, was awarded a Sheridan Libraries Dean’s Undergraduate Research Award (DURA) in 2015 and spent the summer before her senior year investigating the culture of Jubilee pilgrimages and the indelible marks they left on the city of Rome.

The exhibition is a culmination of her research. “I am incredibly excited to share this project with my classmates and the greater Hopkins community. It was truly an honor and a privilege to spend time piecing together how this great tradition was experienced by pilgrims through this collection of rare books and unique historical objects.”

In early modern Europe, the celebration of Papal Jubilee years attracted millions of pilgrims to the city of Rome. Books printed for and about the events surrounding these anni santi provide unique insight into religious, political, and social life of the time, with volumes produced for a marketplace that ranged from the humblest pilgrims to Renaissance Popes.

Books featured in this exhibition explore and manifest the physical development of the city of Rome as a pilgrimage destination, the mental and physical qualities of pilgrimage, the cult of holy relics, and the proliferation of guide books and other sacred keepsakes from this period of Catholic Reformation.

With the Ottoman Turks in control of Jerusalem, Rome became the ultimate Catholic destination. The traditional spiritual benefits of pilgrimage were augmented by the sale of Holy Year indulgences, which some likened to rebaptism in their special power to remit sin and damnation. The urban fabric of the city of Rome itself had grown to awe-inspiring heights with the revival and expansion of the ancient city and the construction of the largest church in the world: the new St. Peter’s basilica at the Vatican.

Despite the challenges of physical danger, poor living conditions, food shortages, periodic lawlessness, and the threat of plague, pilgrims nonetheless flocked to Rome in the hundreds of thousands seeking personal salvation and the saving power and promise of holy relics.

Jubilee is on exhibit through June 1.

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