The Jubilee Museum is a unique Columbus institution, located in a former Catholic School with a mission to “preserve the Catholic mind and memory as it is represented in art as well as Catholic Church history.” If you’re not Catholic, or not religious, don’t be too quick to cross it off your list. It’s been described as a “hidden gem” by non-Catholic visitors interested in history more generally and the centuries of art and culture inspired by Catholicism. Its impressive collections include authentic relics, 500-year old Bibles, and comparative religion exhibits including a Jewish “Synagogue” gallery. With seasonal exhibits and a collection of over 300 Nativity scenes, it’s a great place to visit during the holiday season.
The museum was founded in 1998 by Father Kevin Lutz, who is often on hand to offer guided tours, in a building that also houses an active soup kitchen offering free daily meals to the needy. Inside you’ll find the largest collection in the US of Catholic art and artifacts, from organs and pews to priceless oil paintings, statues, and stained glass. Many of these have been preserved from churches or schools that have closed, and the museum will gladly re-deploy them to active congregations that need them. The collection also includes contemporary Catholic-inspired art including prints by Japanese artist Sadao Watanabe, whose work also hangs at the Vatican.
In the Catholic tradition, a relic is a personal item (or in some cases a body part) that has been authenticated by the Church as having once belonged to Christ or any of the saints. A Catholic Church traditionally displays a single relic in a special container called a reliquary. The Jubilee Museum’s collection includes hundreds of relics and reliquaries, and their “Relic Chapel” is a rare chance to see a wide variety of them paired with information about the saints they represent.
The “Holy Land Collection” features artifacts from the middle east including Roman coins and a spear from the 2nd century. The “Convent Room” focuses on the Catholic nun tradition, with a variety of habits displayed on mannequins.
According to the museum’s website, its mission includes Christian evangelism and education, but it also “holds in high esteem the Jewish faith and preserves a significant collection of Jewish art and history.” The “Synagogue” gallery contains items such as Torah scrolls typically found in a Jewish sanctuary, as well as items representing Jewish history, including a replica of the Ark of the Covenant.
The museum also hosts temporary and seasonal shows, such as an exhibit of Santa Claus-themed paintings by local artist Chris Ryckman. For its 20th anniversary, it hosted the “Lego Vatican,” a replica of St. Peter’s Basilica and the surrounding Piazza made from tens of thousands of Lego bricks by a Philadelphia priest in honor of a visit by Pope Francis in 2014.
Cover image: Nheyob, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.