They are called the Vatican’s vampire prints because they are so delicate.

But this title is misleading. The vampire doesn't feature once from what this writer can tell. Actually, these prints are works by such masters as Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch and Salvador Dali, but they are so super sensitive and frail that they usually lie dormant for years in dark storage in the Vatican museums.

The 150 etchings, woodcuts, aquatints, lithographs and other works of 20th century graphic art are now being exhibited, and are seeing the full light of day but only for a while. Some for the very first time , and these can be seen at the Braccio Carlo Magno exhibition hall off St. Peter’s Square. (You could grab one of the Pope's favourite pizzas afterwards from a stand nearby).

Called “The Signs of the Sacred - The Imprints of the Real”, the show is a mix of works on spiritual themes, interpretations of biblical scenes, nature scenes, still life's and pieces reflecting the mundane; war and maternity etc.

The exhibition’s curator said that the prints were sensitive to light.. He also explained that the art works can only be exposed for a brief period to avoid fading away, just like the vampire when exposed to daylight.

Micol Forti, the Vatican Museums’ department of modern and contemporary art says they are emerging from a 'hidden and secret life, spent in the darkness of cabinets and vaults'.

Some of the artists whose works are on display, were not known to be religious, such as Edvard Munch, most famous for 'The scream', who lived a bohemian and at times hedonistic lifestyle. However, they were attracted by spiritual themes. Munch’s “Old Man Praying”, a woodcut done in 1902 on Japanese rice paper, is one example. The exhibition also includes Dali’s “Christ of Gala” consisting of two lithographs, which the surrealist intended to give a three dimensional effect when viewed together, like a stereograph. Many were donated by the public, some by the artists themselves, to Pope Paul VI, (1963 to 1978). He particularly liked contemporary art and founded a Vatican collection.

The free of charge exhibition closes at the end of February, when the works will be returned to their coffins, to rest during the long centuries, until they are awakened once more.

To see some of the Vatican's art works go to: