NEW ENTRANCE FOR VATICAN MUSEUMS BY JUBILEE YEAR 2000

VATICAN CITY, JUL 25, 1997 (VIS) - According to a communique from the Pontifical Monuments, Museums and Galleries, work has begun on a new entrance to the Vatican Museums, in view of both the growing number of annual visitors and the Jubilee Year 2000, when a sizeable increase in visitors is expected. Nearly 3,000,000 people came to the museums in 1996.

The communique adds that to facilitate work on the new entrance, the base of the column of Emperor Antoninus Pius has been removed from the Courtyard of Armour, where visits to the museums begin, and will be placed in the Vatican Gardens near the Vatican art gallery.

This base, a marble cube weighing 60 tons, is decorated with bas reliefs illustrating Emperor Antonino Pio's funeral in 161 A.D. Discovered in Rome in 1703, it was brought to the Vatican and placed in the gardens in 1789. In 1979