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Forgotten relics on show after being saved from disaster

Photo: ITV News Anglia

A new exhibition at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has opened against the odds.

Researchers from Cambridge University spent four years and an EU grant of more than £2 million searching for religious relics in Italy.

Many of the artefacts had been forgotten for 600 years but just as they were about to go on show disaster struck.

  • Watch a video report by ITV News Anglia's Claire McGlasson

It is an irony that isn't lost on the curators; an exhibition about religious devotion that was very nearly wrecked by an act of God.

Researchers at Cambridge University were preparing to receive Renaissance treasures they'd discovered in churches and convents across Italy.

Instead they received news there had been an earthquake.

"Some of the places where our artefacts were located that we'd agreed to borrow and show in the exhibition were struck very badly by the earthquake.

"So there was a real period of tantalising waiting to find out whether those things would still be able to come or not."

– DR MAYA CORRY, University of Cambridge
A wooden figures of the baby Jesus was among the precious relics saved from the earthquake. Credit: ITV News Anglia

It was an agonising wait but proof finally came through from the wreckage of the Camerino Convent that its most precious relic had survived and was on its way to England.

It was a Jesus doll, made of wood which is now the centre-piece of the exhibition.

These kind of figures were not just for decoration; they were there to be adored, dressed, cradled and treated like a real baby.

A substitute for nuns who would never have children of their own.

Some of the forgotten religious relics going on show at the Fitzwilliam Museum. Credit: ITV News Anglia

The exhibition is open from 7 March - 4 June.

Its name? Madonnas and Miracles.

The team who spent four years putting it together say it's a miracle they managed it.

Many of the artefacts had been forgotten for 600 years.
The exhibition is open from 7 March - 4 June.