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  • Greg Smith

Michelangelo Is Coming

In November 2019, I led a pilgrimage group to Italy. We got home just in time for Thanksgiving weekend. Just a few weeks later, COVID-19 showed up in Italy and, well, the rest is history. We haven’t been back…yet. When COVID and global events settle down, hopefully we’ll be going back. Subscribe to Considering Catholicism newsletter’s and I’ll let you know when.

One of the highlights for any trip to Rome is the Sistine Chapel, a wing attached to the Apostolic Palace, next to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City. It was built by Pope Sixtus XIV (thus the name, Sistine) between 1473 and 1481, before the current St. Peter’s, for papal masses and other events. Famously, it’s where the conclave to select a new pope is held.

The interior walls were (still are) decorated with Renaissance frescoes. Originally, the ceiling was decorated with a painting of the night sky full of stars (that’s a tradition in Catholic churches, with the wonder of God’s creation and the heavens over the altar). But in 1508, Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo Buonarroti from Florence to redo the ceiling. Julius’ original idea was portraits of the 12 apostles, but famously Michelangelo rejected that idea, and instead spent four years painting a series of panels containing biblical scenes, beginning with the Creation. The whole story was dramatized in a wonderful movie, The Agony and the Ecstasy.

Why am I telling you this? Because if you can’t get to Italy anytime soon to see Michelangelo’s work, a high-quality facsimile is coming to a city near you.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition showcases the awe and wonder of arguably one of mankind’s greatest artistic achievements, while allowing its visitors to experience this art from an Up-Close, Life-Sized, and Never-Before-Seen perspective.
With special expertise and care, the ceiling paintings from the Sistine Chapel have been reproduced in a truly unique way using licensed high definition photos. Brought to life using a special printing technique that emulates the look and feel of the original paintings, visitors are given a chance to engage with the artwork in ways that were never before possible: seeing every detail, every brushstroke, and every color of the artist’s 34 frescoes. Each image is accompanied by informative signage, and audio guides are available to rent for an even more in-depth experience.
Whether visitors have already been to the Sistine Chapel or not, everyone can admire the artwork up close, at their own pace, and with the ability to capture photographic memories of this iconic work.

This exhibit solves two “problems” with seeing the Sistine Chapel in person. First, the ceiling is 68 feet above the floor, which means that you have to crane your head back and look straight up. While you get a sort of broad view, you can’t see Michelangelo’s frescoes up close. Second, it’s crowded. The security guards allow one group in at a time, and then hustle you out after 5-10 minutes (unless you go in January, like I have, and then you can stand around in there as long as you want).

Check out the schedule, it’s visiting cities all around the United States, and order tickets. Until we can go in person together next year, this may be the next best thing.

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