Both the exhibit "Medieval Frescoes from the Vatican Museums Collection" and the Museum of Texas Tech received high praise Sunday as the precious and fragile artwork from Rome was, for the first time ever, viewed by the general public.
The 31 frescoes from the 12th and 13th centuries, which were used to illustrate scripture to illiterate masses, remain on view through Sept. 15.
The exhibit was to open at 1 p.m. Sunday, but Gary Edson, executive director of the Tech museum, allowed a few inside the galleries an hour beforehand, including at least two people who didn't have tickets.
Those two, the first of the public to view the entire exhibit, were Eugenie Viener and her mother, Laurenthia Mesh, from Atlanta, Ga., who learned about the exhibit earlier in the day while reading The Avalanche-Journal.
"We drove to Lubbock so that she (Viener) could look at the Texas Tech campus," said Mesh. "It's pretty much a whirlwind tour. We're just here today. We desperately wanted to see this exhibit when we learned of it."
Both expressed amazement at the exhibit's history.
"It's all very pretty; I'm amazed at how they were able to preserve the paintings," Viener said. "I also like the alarm system rather than having guards telling you to move back (from the art)."
Mesh said, "I was overwhelmed. It is an exquisite exhibit. ... I visit a lot of museums in this country and in Europe. I am in Spain every summer. I've seen very auspicious shows in Dallas and Houston, and the presentation here has been every bit as impressive, if not better.
"We immediately bought the catalogs so we could study the works more later."
Beth Pawlowski, a Houston native attending college in Austin, attended with friends from Lubbock.
"The only frescoes I've seen before were in Mexico. These are beautiful. ... I think a lot of people are surprised that these frescoes are in Lubbock," she said.
"It's just a wonderful experience. A lot of other friends also plan to come up and see it."
More than two hours after the exhibit opened, Edson wore a smile, saying the entire opening was "running smoothly."
An alarm heard shortly after 1 p.m. actually was generated by one metal detector being moved too close to another. Only one was in use, but a second was moved into place in the event that foot traffic slowed into the exhibit.
A "choke point," or crowd, also formed at the beginning of the St. Catherine martyrdom series of frescoes, Edson said. "But that's a good problem. That's where most people seem to want to stop longer and read everything about it."
Fifteen guards were in place throughout the museum Sunday, Edson said. There also was a subtle, armed police presence.
Lubbock visitors were equally impressed.
Tom Prather said the exhibit "is even better than I expected.
Nevill Manning called it "awesome and faith-affirming."
Dene Manning agreed, pointing out a need to spend extra time understanding events being depicted.
"There's not a lot of smiles on the faces (of the figures on frescoes)," she noted.
Carol Robertson, who took advantage of previous years on the East Coast by visiting prominent museums, praised the art as "fabulous, fascinating" and the presentation as very well organized.
"It's very relaxed; you don't ever feel rushed. And I must say that the audio (guide) adds a lot to this exhibit.
"Overall, I'm just amazed that this art from so long ago has been so well preserved," Robertson said.
Dennis McAdams and Charlotte LeMaster, both of Plainview, said they were just as intrigued with the transportation of the works.
"We're so impressed," said McAdams, "with such thin frescoes, from hundreds of years ago, being transported from Rome safely, without being damaged."
LeMaster called the never-before-exhibited frescoes by unknown artists "breathtaking."
Edson added, "Many people visiting today are from other cities or other states. But they are with friends or family members from Lubbock. It simply is not accurate to assume that, because tickets are obtained by people in Lubbock, they will all be used by people from Lubbock. It's just impossible to tell."
Business was brisk at the museum's gift shops, and a small portion of the waiting area was reserved for brochures about other Lubbock attractions.
Bob Bybee, representing the National Ranching Heritage Association, was present in cowboy garb Sunday to answer questions about what Lubbock has to offer.
He said, "We've talked to visitors from all over, but there also have been people from Lubbock who came over to talk to us and really didn't know about a lot of the things we have here."