National Museum of Funeral History opens exhibit on saints

National Museum of Funeral History
The "Saintmobile" is featured in "The Making of a Saint" section within the Celebrating the Lives & Deaths of the Popes exhibit. (Photo courtesy National Museum of Funeral History)

( — The National Museum of Funeral History in Houston has opened a new exhibit exploring the lives and deaths of the Popes.

“The Making of a Saint” opened June 1 and was inspired by the April 27, 2014, canonization mass at the Vatican. At that time, Pope John Paul II and Pope John XXIII were elevated to saints; in the last 1,000 years, only seven popes have become saints, the museum said.

“Often times, it is centuries after their death before a pope becomes a saint, which means they usually aren’t remembered or known by the living,” Genevieve Keeney, president of the National Museum of Funeral History, said in in a statement. “That’s what makes this new addition to our Papal exhibit so special – because these popes were part of our lives and we remember them so fondly, particularly Saint John Paul II, who was someone we all came to know and love in our lifetime.”

Since 1992, the 35,000-square-foot National Museum of Funeral History has aimed to educate visitors about funerals and how caring for the dead has changed over time.

The museum features a wide array of caskets and hearses, which one might expect to see at a funeral museum. But, the well-researched exhibits go much deeper, ranging from a look at celebrities’ deaths to the history of embalming to the mourning customs of the 19th century.

The new exhibit features new papal artifacts in addition to a special collection of Saint John Paul II memorabilia. Items on display include an authentic 1982 Range Rover “Popemobile” used by Saint John Paul II in the 1980s during his tour of the United Kingdom and a ash worn by Saint John Paul II during his papacy.

The new exhibit joins another popular papal display at the museum. “Celebrating the Lives and Deaths of the Popes,” which opened in 2008, is largest permanent educational papal exhibit outside of the Vatican.

The 5,000-square-foot intricate display, which took three years of planning and consultation with the Vatican, provides an in depth look at the funeral rituals surrounding the pope. Exhibits include a replica of the coffin used during the last three papal burials, authentic Swiss Guard uniforms, a pope mobile used in 1982 and a replica of Pope John Paul II’s tomb in the Vatican.

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