What if the Menorah Were in the Vatican?

The Menorah’s current whereabouts has captivated the imagination of many throughout the centuries, and remain a subject of speculation that many seek to unravel. 

From the Depths of the Tiber to the Vaults of the Vatican

The Menorah may well be located in the Vatican. As Archaeologist Paolo Carafa from Rome’s Sapienza University points out, searches in River Tiber have yet to produce any significant clues or results. In his renowned 1776 work, Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon suggests that a Vandal ship carrying 12 vessels sank in the high seas.

In his first volume, Gregorovius notes that a ship, described by Procopius as laden with statues, sank. He also mentions a medieval legend claiming the Lateran basilica housed the Ark, the Tablets of the Laws, the golden candlestick, and Aaron’s priestly robes.

Vigna Randanini Jewish Catacombs
The Menorah as depicted in Rome’s Jewish Catacombs of Vigna Randanini

In 1996, The Jerusalem Post covered a story where Shimon Shetreet, Israeli Minister for Religious Affairs at the time, inquired Pope John Paul II about the Menorah’s presence in the Vatican during an official visit, referencing ‘research from the University of Florence’ (which, however, remains unverified). Shetreet’s question was met with silence.

The specifics of their discussion are not known. Haaretz also reported on this incident on May 15, 1996. Steven Fine, a lecturer at Yeshiva University in New York and director of the Center for Israel Studies, discussed this in the Biblical Archaeology Review.  In 2012, he was the author of a digital restoration project of three panels of the Arch of Titus, in which Italian experts also participated, aimed at restoring their legibility and their original colouring, thanks to which we discovered that its color was yellow ochre.

Fine returned to the subject in his book Art History and the Historiography of Judaism in the Greco-Roman World, reflecting that: ‘the legend of the menorah in the Vatican has been in widespread use among American Jews, and now has just as much of a following among Israelis.’ Fine himself has heard the legend many times, and many now mistake this for a historical exposé. “Some even say that an American orthodox rabbi might have entered the Vatican and seen it”. Another rabbi of Moroccan origin, but resident in the United States, says it would be a certain rabbi Pinto; for others, it would be the rabbi and traveller Hayim David Joseph Azulai, who died in 1806.

Some claim that Pius XII Pacelli even ‘showed it to rabbi Herzog’ in 1946, during the official visit he made on March 10th to discuss the fate of Europe’s orphaned Jews. 

Fine reports elsewhere that: ‘One of the two Chief Rabbis of Israel reportedly asked about the menorah on their historic visit to the Vatican in 2004; as, on another occasion, did the President of Israel, Moshe Katzav. On all this, Professor Fine requested a formal response from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, which did not deny: ‘The requests of Shetreet, the President and the Chief Rabbis reflect the long-standing belief that the Catholic Church, as heir to Rome, came into possession of the spoils of empire, such as the documented Arch of Titus. And so, it is assumed that, among other treasures sacred to the Jewish people, the Temple menorah is being kept hidden somewhere in the Vatican’s storerooms.”

My Discovery: A Revelation on the Jewish Vatican Tour

Through my extensive research and exploration into the heart of Rome’s Jewish heritage, I have stumbled upon something truly fascinating. A revelation that sheds new light on this age-old mystery and could potentially alter our understanding of the Menorah’s fate.

To uncover this intriguing discovery, join me on my Jewish Vatican tour and let’s delve together into the hidden depths of history.