The world premier of Polish blockbuster Quo Vadis has been set for a rare special gala screening before the Pope in the Vatican on 30 August.

More than 4,000 guests, including a select group of distributors from Spain, France and other countries where the film is expected to have a major theatrical release, will attend. The Perfecture of the Vatican is organising the event together with the film's producers Chronos Film and distributor Syrena Entertainment.

'We thought from the very beginning that if we had a chance we would show this film to the Pope,' said Jurek Jednorowski, chairman of Syrena. 'This is not just a film, this is a Polish national project. The Pope has taken an interest in the film almost from the beginning.'

The film is based on the novel by Polish nobel prize winning author Henryk Sienkiewicz and is directed by Jerzy Kawalerowicz. It traces the early history of Christianity against the backdrop of religious persecution by the Roman empire.

The $18 m production is the largest in the history of Polish cinema and will have its Warsaw premier on 9 September followed by a general release throughout Poland on 14 September with a record 150 prints. It is expected to surpass the record set by With Fire And Sword, also based on a Henryk Sienkiewicz novel, which took more than $25m at the Polish box office.