Barbara Jatta: The Highest Ranking Woman in the Vatican

Taylor Gmahling - Marketing Representative

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Pope Francis recently elected the first woman in charge of the Vatican Museums. In this role, Barbara Jatta is officially the highest ranking woman in the Vatican. This is her story.

Vanity Fair

Blue Bloods (But Make It Art)

To say, Jatta grew up around art would be an understatement. Think Blue Bloods but instead of growing up in a family of police officers, Barbara Jatte grew up in a family where love for art and history ran deep.

Jatta’s…

  • mother and sister are art restorers,
  • grandmother was a painter,
  • grandfather was a distinguished scholar of Roman topography.1

#NBD

Jatta didn’t stray from the family business. She studied art history at the Sapienza University of Rome and went on to work for the national Italian museums and as a lecturer at the University of Naples.2

All Roads Lead To Rome

While doing research for an upcoming exhibition, Jatta reached out to the Vatican Library for funding. It wasn’t long before she and the library cardinal developed a wonderful working relationship. Jatta remembers the cardinal saying, “I like you as a student, and as a person, I like your energy.”3

The cardinal wasn’t kidding about his respect and admiration for Jatta: in 1996, he invited Jatta to officially join his team.

And just like that Jatta began her her-torical (no, it’s not a typo #herstory) career at the Vatican. She was in “heaven.”4

Fast forward: After 20 years of hard work in the Vatican Library,  the cardinal librarian summoned Jatta to his office on a seemingly insignificant Friday in May 2016.

We imagine the conversation started out something like this…

Cardinal (cue Godfather-esque accent): “I’m gonna make you an offer you can’t refuse…”

Okay, okay, just kidding.

What the Cardinal actually said was: “In the Vatican state, there is an unwritten law: You never apply for a position, and you never refuse it if it’s proposed to you.”5

What was that position?

Director of the Vatican Museums!

It’s no secret at this point that Jatta did, in fact, accept the nomination!

In that moment, Jatta not only became the first female deputy director of the Vatican Museums, but the highest-ranking woman in the Vatican to date! (#makingherstory)

With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility

Jatta now oversees thirteen major departments, the 60 heads of those departments, some 150 restorers and conservators, 350 guards AND is responsible for 200,000 works of art spanning five millennia, from ancient Egypt to the present day.6

When Vogue asked Jatta, “How’s it going?”, Jatta replied,  “Busy, busy, busy: more and more. There are so many different things you have to deal with at the same time, from administration projects to restoration, conferences, lectures, meetings, exhibitions, and cultural diplomacy…”7

Thankfully, Jatta is more than up to the task!

Storied Past, Bright Future

Tourism is Jatta’s biggest challenge. More than 6 million people per year visit the Vatican Museums, and that number is steadily increasing.8

Jatta is working to break up tourist congestion by:

  • hiring more guards in order to keep parts of the museums open later,
  • creating a new entrance to the museums to shorten lines and change up the flow of foot traffic, and
  • highlighting the amazing artworks visitors often skip over on their hustle to the Sistine Chapel.

When asked about her mission, Jatta replied,

“My major goal is to deal with the enormous amount of people and have them have a special visit, an emotional visit, a visit that gives you the sense of where you are, and of the incredible context.”

It’s clear Barbara Jatta is the best person for this mighty undertaking. She is working hard to balance innovation and tradition all while keeping the visitor experience of this sacred place at the center of her efforts.

You go, girl, and keep up the great work!

 

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Notes & Gossip 📌

  1. Nayeri, Farah, (Dec. 2017). “A Woman Now Leads the Vatican Museums. And She’s Shaking Things Up.” Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/24/arts/design/vatican-museums-jatta.html
  2. Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  3. Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  4. Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  5. Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  6. Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  7. Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  8. Nayeri, Farah, (Dec. 2017). “A Woman Now Leads the Vatican Museums. And She’s Shaking Things Up.” Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/24/arts/design/vatican-museums-jatta.html

Scholarly Shout-outs 🌟

  • Bowles, Hamish. (Feb 2018). “Meet Barbara Jatta, the First Woman Director of the Vatican Museums.” Retrieved from https://www.vogue.com/article/barbara-jatta-interview-vogue-march-2018-issue
  • Murphy, Cullen. (March 2018). “Barbara Jatta, the First Woman to Head the Vatican Museums, Is Bringing Change to the Eternal City.” Retrieved from https://www.vanityfair.com/style/2018/03/barbara-jatta-first-woman-to-head-the-vatican-museums
  • Nayeri, Farah, (Dec. 2017). “A Woman Now Leads the Vatican Museums. And She’s Shaking Things Up.” Retrieved from  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/24/arts/design/vatican-museums-jatta.html

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