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Sistine Chapel (vatican.va)
608 points by z0a on May 30, 2014 | hide | past | web | favorite | 235 comments

Very nice. In fact, almost nicer than being there (though you should do that anyway if you get the chance). Because now you can experience the details for as long as you want without a hundred other people around you who are just as annoyed at you as you are at them.

I get it that a tourist complaining about tourist attractions being too crowded is total hypocrisy on my part. But at the same time what I wouldn't give to be able to stand in that chapel for as long as I wanted just to look, all by myself. And now I can. We live in amazing times.

Be sure to look 'up' and use the zoom feature.

The only improvement I can think of is a 'link' icon that you can use to cut-and-paste a certain viewpoint + zoom so that you can show others specific details, and two more viewpoints at the end and the beginning (so you don't lose the corners due to distortion).

Having tried the Oculus Rift, the potential to experience this would be incredible. Although there's nothing quite like just sitting on a worn stone bench alone in a cathedral, just the chill air around you.

It often makes me wish for a non-religious religion -- just a refuge of tranquility.

Mankind has made the most incredible art inspired by religion. Along the same lines, Bach's Chorales and in fact quite a bit of his other work.

Try this, if you feel like some really nice classical music:


Don't make that attribution error of associating the patron with the artist.

Yes, religion was the primary patron of visual, sculptural, and musical arts for much of the period from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. But it wasn't the only.

And you'll find beautiful works among the secularist of the Classical and Romantic periods, say, the Pre-Raphaelites. Of whom neither the artists, models, nor subject are generally highly religious in nature.

Bach was deeply religious, and not just because of some lap-dog sense of "that's who's paying the bills." He signed most of his works as "SDG", short for "Soli Deo Gloria", which roughly translates as "to God alone belongs all glory. His meaning being that any ability Bach thought he had was solely just God showing off: Bach made beautiful music, but God made Bach, and he knew it.

That is a great quote. I used it in the dedication section of a book I wrote recently. Bach is fascinating on many levels - lots of C.S. types quickly appreciate the structure/counterpoint in all of his instrumental music. But because so much of his music was written for a worship context, a whole additional dimension can be seen where he uses musical devices to comment on or support words being sung.

lots of C.S. types quickly appreciate the structure/counterpoint in all of his instrumental music

What on Earth does that mean?

You can read that as "interesting patterns" for an approximate idea of what it means.

No, I wasn't asking to be patronized. If I want to know what counterpoint is I'll look it up. I'm asking what on earth it has to do with computer science. Sure there's the Hofstadter book but with no explanation this comes off as merely pretentious. Do resist the temptation to patronize and mansplain though; I know it is one if the things we as a profession excel at.

I wasn't trying to be patronizing.

Clearly we both know you can look up "counterpoint" if you want to, so I read into your post you were a tiny bit interested but not so interested as to bother looking it up.

I'd hoped the shorthand would give you enough additional idea that you could decide whether doing so was worth it for you, the link between interesting patterns and computer science being hopefully obvious.

It's also an era-fitting and socially acceptable way to humble-brag, if I'm wearing my cynic hat.

Bach was humble enough and gifted enough that he didn't have to brag. I'm fairly sure he meant what he wrote when he did that. This is not DHH bitching about how he came in second in a car race with the better car.

During his own time Bach was not even hailed as a great composer, his genius and contributions only gained appreciation long after he died.

> he \emph{believed} in it


Pretty much all of Bach's works were dedicated to God.


For Michelangelo I'm not so sure, but for Bach there is absolutely no doubt.

Well, in many Jesuit schools all schoolwork was marked with the initials AMDG, in a similar spirit. In many cases (personal experience) the students doing this were no more motivated by the greater glory of god than the average teenager, it was just a convention. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_maiorem_Dei_gloriam

Yes, but Bach was not exactly a student in some school and did this on many manuscripts that were never meant for public consumption (which is one of the reasons a whole lot of them were lost). It's not like some Church official checked his homework. Maybe he did it out of convention, but from what is known about Bach's life I find that unlikely.

Much of Michelangelo's work was produced for the House of Medici, in large part to create a sense of culture around the newly-powerful clan. And while, yes, the family produced four Popes, though more as an outgrowth of their political and financial power consolidation than strict religious interest.

Again: the Church was very different during the period than it is today, representing political power, a center and repository of education and knowledge, tremendous financial power, and a very active role in political goings-on. Again: it's really not particularly surprising that the Church was so involved in sponsorship for the arts.

Today those roles are largely filled by commercial interests, an insight which first came to me in the late 1980s as an early computer animation festival was touring through my college town, and I realized that many of the best shorts, almost all advertisements, were for tobacco and alcohol companies. Today that niche is filled more by the FIRE sector.

I'm disappointed that you are in the negative points. Your comment was insightful and interesting, and I know more after reading it than I did before.

Doesn't much bother me either way, but my comment seems to have been rescued from negative territory by a significant margin.

I don't think you can attribute most incredible art to be inspired by religion, considering that during those times, art (sometimes just ideas) that lacked religious conformity were dealt with severity. Perhaps the reason there is so much art that is inspired by religion because not much else survived.

This brings a famous bit by George Carlin (I think) to my mind - ...It start's when we are kids, we are told to be creative and to colour within the lines... (paraphrased)

Let us not forget that this concept doesn't just apply to Christianity, or religion in general, though.

Monet struggled with the Académie des Beaux-Arts fot painting the way they thought people should paint.

There is a long history of Ballet dancers in the USSR who struggled because they good communists.

Today character assassination is the norm for for so many people (especially in the arts) who don't strictly adhere to progressive politics.

I attended an art school for time where I was frequently shunned for dressing well, (apparently you can't be an "artist" if you wear slacks and dress shirts,) and adhering to Christian principles.

Look at the movie Moms' night out. Highly panned by critics because because the characters are not "feminist" enough. Yet highly rated by the audience.

Your theory that the Mom's Night Out movie was panned only because critics thought it wasn't "feminist" enough can just as easily be turned around to say that the Christian audiences praised it only because the movie panders to them. All the praising user reviews I've read come from a very politically motivated and reactionary viewpoint.

It's definitely possible to be a 'fan' of Carlin, Bach and Michelangelo at the same time without any hint of cognitive dissonance.

You're quite right, but there is something strangely amusing to me about the idea of art inspired by religion in a thread about the Sistine chapel. It's almost more like science trumping religion. There are quite a few theories on just what some images are of - sections of brain, cross section of a penis, brain stem, eye, shoulder etc.

In this case I should have probably used 'funded', but in those days not having a religion was not really an option.

Michelangelo was at continuous odds with his employers during his lifetime, he dissected corpses illegally at first, later with tacit approval of some of the church bigwigs in order to improve his skills as an artist. It was a continuous give-and-take to see who got the most out of the arrangement.

In the end I think we, the future dwellers able to see his work no matter what caused them to come into being are the real winners.

Not bad for a man who declared himself unfit to execute the work because he was a sculptor, not a painter...

There is a very good book about him that I forgot the title of (I read it ages ago).

> "declared himself unfit as a painter" ?

Wasn't it more like "declared painting as unfit for him"? Michelangelo had a strong disdain for paintings and painters especially Leonardo Da Vinci and his friends.

My only source is [this biography](1). Not sure how accurate that is.

[1]: http://www.amazon.com/The-Agony-Ecstasy-Biographical-Michela...

I did not write that he declared himself unfit as a painter, I wrote that he did not consider himself to be a painter. Michelangelo's first love was marble, not paint.

You may be referring to Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling by Ross King. Fantastic read for the interested. http://www.amazon.com/Michelangelo-Popes-Ceiling-Ross-King/d...

The Agony and the Ecstasy, by Irving Stone, perhaps? Its the first thing that came to mind when I saw this. Irving Stone's Lust for Life, about Vincent Van Gogh, is pretty good as well.

Given the timing that is most likely the one but I wouldn't know for sure without reading a few pages. Thanks for the hint. I've long ago lost pretty much all my books so it's hard for me to be sure about what I read where and when. Much appreciated.

Most likely those interpretations of Michelangelo's frescoes as brain stem, etc are a case of pareidolia. In the case of the "brain cross-section" (where God touches Adam) There is no reason why Michelangelo should choose what is now a standard representation of the brain in a sagittal cross-section over any other cross-section; in fact the image doesn't look very much like a real brain in cross-section, but is closer to the stylized one that appears in modern text-books (which Michelangelo would obviously not have been aware of).

A midline section is the obvious one. And there are images by him in the chapel that have similarity to coronals too. Of all the images that look like anatomy the most famous one of the brain is the least obvious one in my opinion. Although that said, it isn't too much of a stretch to see it. I wouldn't really call it that stylised so much as obscured, presumably to prevent the bill payer moaning. Out of curiosity, when do you call text book image stylised? MR and CT images are basically the same as textbooks but without the colour. Many texts actually use the MR image as their image as they are so very good (sinus area possibly excluded).

MR images, etc, are very modern. The choice of image to be displayed in a text book is not based only on what one would see if one had a brain to dissect at hand; dissection procedures, and the sections that result, are determined by precedence.

The "standard" sagittal section as in this image (i.imgur.com/ZTvy55n.jpg), or this image (i.imgur.com/73YdDXa.jpg) is chosen precisely because it shows in one image several important features of the brain, and is also recapitulated nicely by MRI images, as you mention.

However, there is no reason why Michelangelo would know anything about the different regions of the brain and therefore choose a representation that showed them.

A "fresh" human brain (which is what Michelangelo would have seen) looks like this (i.imgur.com/KXBLtrx.jpg), or this (i.imgur.com/Bm5l8n6.jpg), and without further dissection do not look much like his paintings.

Such brains can be further sectioned in any number of ways, none of which are necessarily obvious. The question then is would Michelangelo have dissected brains in the same way as is now done?

That's a good question. I think that his interest in dissection was not driven by any desire to know anatomy per-se, but mostly by a desire to be a better sculptor. From his perspective (or at least, from what I know of his perspective, which is very much limited by what we know about him) what was in the head was not all that interesting. But muscles, the skeleton, the locations of internal organs that gave shape to the abdomen and such were of great interest. He could use that knowledge to depict people in a more realistic way.

The inside of the skull is not shaping the skull in a way that it will come out 'wrong' if you don't know about what's in the skull.

Beautiful piece, thanks for sharing.

You're welcome. Lipatti was an amazing pianist, definitely someone worth spending some time on. You won't be disappointed. Good starting point: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pcdHbSZE9J4

It's hard to say that the Sistine Chapel was inspired by religion - it was paid for by religion, yes.

What do you mean by 'inspired' here?

When looking at the chapel I see a large number of religious figures and imagery, so it seems odd to say that art depicting religious subjects, in a religious setting, sponsored by a religious patron was not inspired by Christianity.

It was ordered and paid for by the catholic church, of course it's going to represent concepts of the catholic creed. If NASA ordered their rockets to be painted with science based themes, you could hardly call such paintings "inspired by science".

"Inspired" implies that the artist woke up with an idea and painted it.

Michelangelo was mostly told to 'paint the ceiling', what he painted was of his own devising. For sure he would probably not have been paid if he painted a forest scene but there is some evidence in his own hand that his inspiration was mostly scripture (the OT).

I'm pretty sure the reigning pope approved of the design, both from an execution perspective as from the content itself.

But if he had done the job according to the normal way of decorating ceilings in that day we likely would not be having this discussion. It really is a masterpiece.

Why not? They would be the genesis of the idea, after all. It just seems bizarre to me to say that religion did not urge him to do this, which is the usual meaning of 'inspire.'

See sister comment.

Do you think Bach would have been a rubbish musician if he was an atheist? I suspect religion was just one of many possible muses.

> It often makes me wish for a non-religious religion -- just a refuge of tranquility.

Have you looked into Buddhism yet? Because that's exactly one of the ways I'd describe it--a non-religion whose focus is on tranquility.

If you haven't looked into yet, this is a great easy-to-read book to start with: http://www.amazon.com/Peace-Every-Step-Mindfulness-Everyday/...

> I'd describe it--a non-religion whose focus is on tranquility.

The reason white people invented Buddhism 150 years ago or whenever was explicitly to be a religion. This was in order to provide an argument against western imperialism, among other reasons.

Curious what you mean by "white people invented Buddhism 150 years ago". What is this in reference to?

I was being a little flippant, but it was a reference to this: http://meaningness.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/a-new-world-reli...

I haven't read the books he cites, but if you listen to the Buddhist Geeks podcast (and really everyone should) then the differences between modern buddhism(s) and traditional buddhism(s) is a recurring theme.

You can (and many do) just follow the simple teachings of the Buddha that lived 2500 years ago. You don't have to buy into any ideologies you don't want to.

Ok since everyone here is too timid to call you out. What do you mean by "White People?" You do know there are tons of Asian ethnicities and I'd imagine many of them would take offense at being lumped in with western "white people."

Nevermind the buddhist warriors then.

Or something you can attend, http://afsc.org/ with people.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quakers are the closest thing we have to Buddhism in the Americas.

Interesting quote from that page: "Today, around 89% of Friends worldwide practice programmed worship[6]—that is, worship with singing and a prepared message from the Bible, often coordinated by a pastor." Note the usage of the phrase "programmed worship". Bit of an unintended pun there.

I have been to a few Friends meetings and have never encounter this. It would strike me as really really odd.

Trying to figure out how we can mash a joke out of Quaker Oats [0] and a Skinner Box [1].

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quaker_Oats_Company#Logo_and_Qu...

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Programmed_instruction

... except for you know, Buddhism. Which has a center in certainly every major US city.

Quakers I think are slightly more percipient. Both are extremely self reflective but Quakers come with a nicer hug.

Thank you, that sentence made me smile.

I've gotten that feeling at the San Fran Aquarium. There are some benches where big fish can swim over head. Unbelievably peaceful and cool when there aren't a ton of kids running around(ie: get there early)

> It often makes me wish for a non-religious religion -- just a refuge of tranquility.

Like Buddhism? Try chilling in a Tibetan high altitude monastery someday.

We always love the hipsters comments on HN. Yeah, we get it's cool to be Buddhist in the US, it does not mean that opinion is shared universally across the world.

You can feel tranquil and at peace with yourself in non-Buddhist areas too.

I'm not Buddhist and I don't live in the states. But I do have a thing for Tibetan monasteries in the highlands of western china.

I agree, I've thought about this often. I find old universities provide something close. If it weren't for all the damn students...

a non-religious religion is what I dream about too! After many years despising religion (I am Italian, I know what Rome actually means) I traveled the world and learned that religion actually serves some high purposes. I really miss being religious, so if you build a non-religious one, count me in! sounds almost like a good start-up idea :)

"Science saved my soul" is a nice non-religious experience. Makes you feel humble and all-powerful at once: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r6w2M50_Xdk

The Sunday Assembly [0] might be of interest. I've only read of it recently but it's an interesting idea. Church for the atheists.

[0] http://sundayassembly.com/

I had a thought about a similar concept. Imagine a place where you could get an inspiring message and self-help among others who have experience to share, along with community support for secular activities... kids could go to class to help prepare them for the adult world, learning about essential things like personal finance that are pretty much non-existent in the current public school curriculum.

You'd have to be actually working in the Vatican and have exclusive access to the chapel to do that.

> It often makes me wish for a non-religious religion -- just a refuge of tranquility.

How about belief in logic? Like the Vulcans ;)

And without the guards yelling "NO PHOTO!!!" every 10-20 seconds at people who dare to try to get a photo of the chapel that's not nearly as nice as this.

Copyright is maddening sometimes. [1]

1 - http://mentalfloss.com/article/54641/reason-why-no-photograp...

That's two reasons, not just copyright, and the millions of flashbulbs discharging there over the course of a short timespan would for sure have an effect on the lifespan of the work.

So that's a good thing for a bad reason and I totally sympathize with the position of the stewards of this amazing work.

I have a super nice story about this but I'm actually somewhat hesitant to tell it in detail in public, but I once discharged about a few 10's MW/m^2 of light concentrated on a very small part of a very famous painting.

How I got away with that will have to remain an untold story, but let's just say that my consultancy endeavours take me to interesting places and allow me to do interesting things.

I wish more places would specify "no flash photography" when that's really what they mean. I suppose some people don't know how to turn it off, but for those who do (or for those who don't bring a flash in the first place), it would be nice.

The best way I've seen it implemented was a museum that not only had a lengthy explanation about how to turn off your flash (including examples for Sony point-and-shoots, which were fairly popular), but also had a "test table" with similar light as you'd find inside, so experts could adjust their exposure/ISO accordingly.

Perhaps that's expecting too much from the average tourist, but still, I found it cool.

The table thing is very considerate of them. I wonder how many people use it?

Most galleries I have been to lately have this policy now (obvious joke: 'but photos taken with rubbish cameras are fine...'), given the invention of cameras in everyone's phone its generally a lost battle to expect people won't take photos.

> I suppose some people don't know how to turn it off

I would argue that a majority of people either wilfully ignore this instruction or don't know how to do it.

Perhaps they should have a shared flikr account so that everybody could download good quality images of what is hanging on the walls

At the Minneapolis Institute of Arts they're very clear about this, as is the Art Institute of Chicago and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and I'm sure many others. Outside the U.S., I don't know.

Good to know! Sounds like it is in fact increasing as a policy.

That's two reasons, not just copyright, and the millions of flashbulbs discharging there over the course of a short timespan would for sure have an effect on the lifespan of the work.

Has anyone actually done the math on this? Or is it just a social hack used by museum guards to dodge the real reason for the policy, which is to keep the gift shop in business?

The biggest enemy of pigments is ultra-violet and lots of cheap flash kits do not filter that out.

Sunlight is about 1 KW/square meter on a non-cloudy day at noon, directly from above.

4% of that is a typical value for the UV component.

So the UV power hitting a 1 square meter surface at noon is about 40 Watts.

Photographic flash is on the order of a millisecond give or take, and power output of a typical flash during that millisecond is 100 Ws, or 100 KW/ms. Depending on how far away you are from the work of art you're putting for every 10 flashes then the equivalent of about of a second of exposure to the sun on the totality of the work (much more than 1 square meter, so you have to divide by the total surface). In the case of the chapel all the light discharged in the chapel will hit the object somewhere so apart from atmospheric effects (likely small) you can assume all of that light would contribute to the fading.

So every 10,000 tourists passing through and making one picture each with flash on is the equivalent of about 1000 second's worth of exposure to direct sunlight (think of a window of one square meter opening for 1000 seconds once per day), all this assuming that the flash contains an equivalent amount of UV as sunlight which likely is not the case. About 20,000 tourists per day pass through during the peak of the season, so on such days that's the equivalent of 2000 such seconds of the open window.

So at a guess, this is probably not too much of a problem, unless the pigments used break down very easily. (Blue is usually the most stable, with other pigments being more susceptible to fading)

What would be a problem is the fact that if all these people are discharging their flashes all the time that this seriously interferes with the ability of others who do not engage in such annoying reproductive behaviour to appreciate what they are looking at.

edit: fixed some of the math

It's worth mentioning that white LED flash has essentially zero UV.

This shows an LED light spectrum with one cool white LED. The warmer colors have even less of the 450nm peak.


(click on "Actual Brightness" to see the spectrum in mW instead of lumens, I didn't implement that in the URL header yet)

That's really a cool idea, is this your site?

Thank you, yes, it is my first and only foray into javascript. I found that it was consistently difficult to give people good visual ideas of what I'm talking about when I make claims like the one above. Particularly the lumens to watt conversion really helps people grasp better the idea of perceptual brightness, and also why when you're using fluorescent paints it's the power emitted instead of the lumens emitted that are important.

I haven't done the math, but seeing the chapels in Cappadocia, Turkey seems to prove this. Most of the chapels contain frescoes that are significantly color-faded, but Karanlık Kilise ("Dark Church"), which is quite dim and has very little ambient light, contains frescoes with far richer color. [1]

Unfortunately, the guards stationed there like to yell at tourists even if their flashes are off, so I suspect most people don't understand the reasoning.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_of_G%C3%B6reme

Pro tip: get in line sufficiently before closing time that you are guaranteed entry. Proceed through the first few rooms, then loiter. Move much slower than the horde of crowds flowing through the halls. Spend an hour looking through the early exhibits (I could spend a day in the room of tapestry maps alone), until the entrance is closed and the crowd thins. Make your way to the chapel and enjoy until they kick you out - I was in there for 15 minutes with just a few other people! (Albeit in October, not "peak" season).

I heard rumours they were considering closing the Sistine chapel to the public because people were using flashes when taking photos and it had the potential to damage the artwork.

I don't see why you would bother taking photos anyway. Go in and enjoy it. In a place so crowded your unlikely to get a good photo and there are plenty of photos already online for you to look at.

It's crowded, but you're looking up so the crowds aren't really that big of a problem.

This is what I remember as well. (1) It was very very crowded, and (2) the crowds didn't make a big impression in my memories of being there because I was looking up.

It's also annoying as hell being around a group of people interested in nothing more than documenting the fact that they're at said place, instead of actually just enjoying the moment.

There's hundreds of photos of the crap you're taking photos off. Just enjoy the moment and make it less touristy for everyone around you as well.

There's a line from a great Robin Williams movie where he talks about life to a gifted kid "I bet you can tell me every little detail about the Sistine Chapel, but you can't tell me what it smells like."

It smells like sweaty humans being herded through like cattle as quickly as possible.

It's from good will hunting: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0119217/quotes

Also your neck is not meant to really look up for very long periods of time.

Upvoted. I just imagined Michaelangelo giving you a knowing nod of agreement. Not the most ergonomic surface to paint on.

Didn't he do a lot of the painting lying down?

No, he constructed a harness that allowed him to be in a mostly standing up position close to the ceiling, which meant that he was looking up most of the time.


That argument really infuriated me. How does it not just boil down to "You're younger than me, therefore your opinion is invalid"?

Sometimes book knowledge ISN'T as good as experience. Mettle is not tested from the couch.

It's 100% better than being there. They keep it dark (presumably to preserve the paint), they lead you through a long gallery of mostly-similar art of mostly-similar vintages, and then you're surrounded by a hundred other tourists, all trying to squint upwards and catch a glimpse of the famous artwork.

If you love history and art, then sure, it's 100% worth it. Otherwise, I'd skip it. (caveat: if you do, you will have to deal with everyone you ever meet chastising you for skipping it.)

I don't know... I recall the interior being very quiet, with a really good atmosphere. I remember being amazed by the geometry of the ceiling, which you can't really see from this site. It's very much 'over-hyped' in some sense though, If you're not really a fan of great art I can see it being a 'meh' moment.

P.S. Tourists are worse at Pisa.

I've been there twice, once long ago and once more recently, the last time was terrible.

I'd like to add the rest of the museum seemed really good and very relaxing since most people just wanted to see this famous fresco. It's quite big (thus tiring) though.

Only thing that I would change, would be to add Easter eggs.

look down on the floor, there is one!

The photo is way nicer than for real. Especially since for tourists the room is much darker normally in order to preserve the art better.

I think the real thing gives you a better sense of the mastery artists (Michaelangelo) have put into this. It's majestic, really.

And without the guard constantly clapping and saying "SSSSSSSHHHHH", very annoying indeed.

very nice, but the textures look somewhat cartoonish/unreal... is that how it really looks?


Reminds me of this enjoyable quote:

> Nobody goes there anymore. It's too crowded. - Yogi Bera

Meta comment about the panorama interface:

The click+drag view control feels inverted to me. I'm curious whether I'm in the minority, though. For FPS games on PC I use normal mouse, but for console FPS games I use inverted joystick.

The reason it feels inverted is because it's not "click and drag" in the normal sense (like Google Maps) where clicking and holding sets an anchor point, and moving the cursor moves the anchor point.

This is more like a virtual joystick. Clicking and holding establishes the neutral point of the joystick, and the cursor position relative to the neutral point is the velocity vector of camera movement. It behaves the same as the right hand joystick in a console FPS like Halo with a traditional (non-inverted) control scheme.

Yes, it feels inverted to me too.

You know who's responsible for that? Google Maps (specifically Street View). There used to be a bunch of different 360° Java applets and QuickTime VR embeds that did it this way; now they all feel backwards.

Feels normal to me, though I'd expect the movement to stop when I stop moving my mouse (instead it continues till I release the mouse button), but I got used to it quickly enough...

It works beautifully on a touch screen. The only downside being that you can only zoom a very short distance. It is otherwise perfect on mobile.

I assume most people do what I did, and try to look up at the ceiling immediately... showing you the copyright notice on the floor. Maybe that was intentional?

I wasn't fond about the forced orientation. If I tried to look at the paintings "above" The Creation of Man, I had to rotate, meaning four or so panels could only be viewed upside-down.

Just FYI the keyboard controls are much easier to use (arrow keys + shift/control to zoom).

Let me preface this with my thoughts being that this was super cool, but I felt the same way. It is amazing that this was done in the 1400s, computer graphics and everything... I also found it annoying that double click didn't zoom.

Saint Peters VR-Tour:


more Saint Peter VR-Tours: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/san_pietro/vr_tour/i...

more Vatican VR-Tours: http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/index_en.html

  Special thanks to Villanova University in Pennsylvania (USA)
  for its contribution to the realization of the Virtual 
  Reality Tour of the Sistine Chapel
-- http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/index_sistina_en.htm

The Sistine Chapel HTML file contains some commented text:

  Photography: Chad Fahs & Paul Wilson, Villanova Department of Communication
  Stitching & Image Correction: Chad Fahs & Paul Wilson
  iOS conversion of the entire site is done courtesy of
  the Villanova Center of Excellence in Enterprise Technology
  and the Villanova Computer Science Department
  contact: Frank.Klassner@villanova.edu
Please add "(2010)" to the headline (see copyright on the chapel floor)

> Please add "(2010)" to the headline (see copyright on the chapel floor)

I think (1508) would be more appropriate.

For more renaissance goodness check out this site on the Ghent Altarpiece - zooms so far in that you can see between the paint cracks:


Thats awesome. Any idea whats going on with the X-ray versions of Adam and Eve? There seems to be things going on that arn't visible in the other views. Maybe its where they painted over another painting?

Wow, that's center piece is incredible. I don't think it's humanly possible to paint something like that.

For the soundtrack: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/music/Sist...

(from the source: Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli - 5. BenedictusTP1(Simon Preston: Westminster Abbey ChoirTCM"Giovanni Pierluigi Da PalestrinaTAL6Palestrina: Missa Papae Marcelli - Allegri: Miserere)

When I was in the Sistine Chapel a couple of years ago, someone opened that big black door at the back of the hall (between the two wooden walls).

This was not the tourist exit, and inside there were huge beautiful golden hallways with exquisite paintings all around.

Does anyone know if this part of the chapel is visible or recorded anywhere?

From my high school AP Art History class, I believe that door is where the priest would enter. I vaguely remember something about a controversy when it was revealed that Michelangelo put the depiction of hell in the lower right (directly above the door) with the tormented characters pointing at it.

For the life of me I can't find verification of this online, though, so hopefully Mr. J (my APAH teacher) wasn't just making it up.

Edit: Ahh wait, I think you were talking about a different door. Mine is a smaller black door in the lower right of The Last Judgement.

This is one of those cases where (having not used one) I sincerely hope the Oculus Rift can bring something more to the experience compared to what we have now.

What you can't get from your computer screen is the scale of it all. You can intellectually get it by looking around at reference points in the image, but you can't feel it the way you can when you are there.

This would be especially true if one had a similar view of St. Peter's. There's almost no way to convey the sheer enormity of it without actually physically being there. That's one of the things I remember the most from my visit: that feeling of being so tiny inside this massive, ornate indoor space that is so big, there's a haze when you look from end to end.

The software running this Sistine Chapel panorama supports the Rift: http://krpano.com/stereo3d/#top

You just need to take a two image panorama photo to begin with.

I've seen a few 3D 360 videos in my Oculus Rift. There is little doubt that in the future instead of shooting 2D photos we will be capture 3D 360 degree video with geometry data. Imagine strapping on the headset and seeing yourself as a toddler taking your first steps. Pretty wild stuff.

I saw a thing on TV once where some religious historian lady was pointing out how the robe enclosing god as he reaches out to adam resembles the human brain in cross section. She speculated that Michelangelo may have been leaving a clue as to what he really thought of his employers, based on his attendance at banned human dissections around that time.

(It was a serious programme about art history BTW, not some conspiracy nonsense. Wish I could remember the name.)

The plot thickens...

Excerpt from "When the Author Was Painting the Vault of the Sistine Chapel" by Michelangelo:

  My painting is dead.
  Defend it for me, Giovanni, protect my honor. 
  I am not in the right place—I am not a painter


Having never had the opportunity to actually see this in person, yet seeing god knows how many prints, its fascinating to see the whole room in perspective and just how monumental of an artistic achievement this was. Lots of components I'd never seen that had me starting for minutes. Only thing I wish was that there was a way to zoom.

You can actually zoom with the button on the bottom left (or with ctrl/shift). Just too bad there is not other PoV

'A' and 'Z' buttons work too

>Only thing I wish was that there was a way to zoom

Use the scroll wheel on your mouse.

That... actually works.

I was using the touchpad on my laptop and it wasn't responding so I assumed it could zoom. Just tried it with my mouse and it works perfect.

The whole building is like that - the walls and ceilings of the Vatican museum are one of the finest art collections on the planet, let alone the things that are hanging on the walls.

It's worth an experience - the potential of something like the Oculus to mass-produce the experience of being there is fantastic.

Very cool. This got me thinking: there are many tourist sites where people aren't allowed to go anymore because of safety/security issues. It would be awesome if the site coordinators (or whoever makes executive decisions on such things) would make pages like this one available on their websites for their respective tourist attractions. And in more POVs.

Having never visited, I did not realize until how high the density of nudity per square meter was.

There are uncovered breasts! Penises! Can't find any vulvas unfortunately. It's funny to think that they would have to censor this on American television because of the religious right.

Another way to think of it: Miley Cyrus is actually more covered than many of the characters in the Sistine Chapel.

I believe if its "art" they don't need to censor it.

See: http://www.nbcnews.com/nightly-news/will-michelangelos-david...

At the very least, they don't do any close ups.

"It's funny to think that they would have to censor this on American television because of the religious right."

Re: What would fit on American television today.

Pretty specious argument. Just because something was appropriate in the 1400s, doesn't mean we have to find it appropriate today. We also don't find hanging people in public squares appropriate anymore, or a million other things...

There are arguments to be made in favor of allowing more nudity on television. "They used to do it back in the day" is not one of the good ones.

I think OP was commenting on the irony that the reason given for no nudity on tv is a religious reason from the same religion that puts naked people in one of their most sacred places.


> Just because something was appropriate in the 1400s, doesn't mean we have to find it appropriate today.

That means current church dogma is just temporary ... it has no 'absolute validity' in it, which is even worse than allowing the nude pics. Or current theology is just creative thinking that happened in-between then and now. Why should a religious man submit to recent theology instead of the original Christian theology of 2000 years ago?

Since when does the Catholic Church have a say in U.S. broadcasting standards?

There was in those days significant opposition to the way the work was executed, which led the artist to pull some pranks on some of his most active detractors.

The back wall is full of faces that Michelangelo didn't like. I remember some guy added clothes to the painting later to try to make it less nude.

Bush's attorney general would have it his way:


All "offensive" details in The Last Judgement were covered soon after Michelangelo's death (1564). The fresco was restored 1980-1994, without the added loincloths, but a couple of the figures were actually heavily modified and impossible to restore. [0]

[0] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_Judgment_(Michelangelo...

Anyone have the technical info on how this was done and put together? Looking at other pages, it appears this was created by Villanova University in Pennsylvania (http://www1.villanova.edu/main.html) for the Vatican, and they appear to have several folks actively publishing in photogrammetry journals. It looks like it was done with some very high quality photogrammetry (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photogrammetry), and I'd be interested to see what program they used, and if its available, as my agency could probably find some uses for it.

For those who haven't found the other pages: there are a total of 8 basilicas and chapels that have been rendered in this fashion.

http://www.vatican.va/various/basiliche/index_en.html (English page)

When I was a kid, my parents took me to Disney World. It was a long time ago, childhood amnesia and so on, so forgive the fuzzy details here... But basically, they had a very early version of virtual reality (a headset a la Oculus Rift). They chose the same imagery, so I was immersed in the Sistine Chapel. I remember being deeply impressed at the time (although I was a kid, so who knows how great it actually was). Regardless, I have never been to Italy and have wanted to go ever since that experience.

You know what would be cool? If I can click on those painting and read story underlying each of them. I can read that all day long.

The moneyshot: http://imgur.com/aiBLxXD

Absolutely breathtaking!

Really awesome stuff. I wonder why they chose this level of maximum resolution -- from the Gigapixel images it's clear that they could support zooming into the individual paint cracks, although with the publicity that this is getting, that might have incurred extreme bandwidth costs.

This is an extreme violation of the Chapel's no photography rule. I hope they catch whoever did this.

It's the Vatican's own web site...

Oh come on. I know HN hates humor but this was obviously said in jest. Not only is it on the Vatican website, but the entire room was obviously cleared out to get this shot.

I always wondered why there's a no photography rule. Is it because of copyright or because it's a sacred site? (Although the mere fact that we're watching a 360 photo on the site means that it's probably copyright).

"In return for funding the renovation, Nippon TV received the exclusive rights to photography and video of the restored art, as well as photos and recordings of the restoration process" http://mentalfloss.com/article/54641/reason-why-no-photograp...

Copyright was a good chunk of the reason, but there is a much better one: lots of flashing from cameras will fade the pigments just like sunlight fades outdoor advertising.

There's a better one still IMO. It's a place of worship, you're supposed to look at the images and ponder your relationship with, and position before, the Almighty Creator. If you're messing around with your camera, or others are, then you're invariably far to distracted to meditate on higher things.

So, one is only allowed to ponder your relationship before the Almighty Creator while one is in the Sistine Chapel? Or am I not supposed to be distracted by the beautiful works of art? While I appreciate the need to respect others who may want some peace and quite while worshiping, this is total hogwash. One can ponder one's relationship with their creator ANYWHERE, not just in some small made up room.

Except of course that that particular room was made for exactly that purpose.

As a total atheist I would still very much want to make room for the people who are using that place for its original purpose as opposed to me, who just comes to appreciate the work of the man that spent an appreciable part of his life creating one of our most important works of art. Even though they could do what they're doing anywhere and I could do (until I saw this link) what I'm doing only there.

That's a terrible reason, it's a tourist attraction, not a place of worship;even if it still were many don't care about your superstitions and don't need or want your superstitions imposed upon them. We don't all walk around with delusions of a creator in our minds.

>not a place of worship //

Your contention is that the Sistine Chapel¹ is not a place dedicated by Christians to the glorification of God? Like it's not, say, a chapel? And they don't have art work depicting the lives of important people in the Christian faith, or imagery that Christians might use as part of their worship.

When the Sistine Chapel choir sings the Miserere, say, to assembled members of the Roman Catholic church, you don't think that maybe, just maybe that means that the people who own the building consider it to be - perhaps - just a tiny bit of a building for religious devotion ... now what's that word, oh yeah, perhaps they consider it to be a chapel.

Would you go to a Mosque, perhaps the Great Mosque in Istanbul, and say "people shouldn't be imposing their religion on me, like, just because I came to a mosque".

"Why should I respect your beliefs as a Christian when I choose to visit a Christian chapel" is that really your considered opinion?

TBH if it weren't for your long standing on this site I'd have dismissed your comment as an obvious troll.

Now if I go picking apart your need to hide from God, your desire to run from the truth, your imposition of your beliefs on others in an affront to the truth ... I'm guessing you're going to consider that this isn't really the appropriate forum for such a conversation, that I'm being crass and troll-like, no? Perhaps you'll start by telling me you're only interested in the truth despite your "not a place of worship" claim being the most obvious of falsehoods and putting the lie to such a notion ...

- - -

¹ - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pUQyLXKdF_M Roman Catholic mass being celebrated in the Sistine Chapel, March 2013.

> Your contention is that the Sistine Chapel¹ is not a place dedicated by Christians to the glorification of God? Like it's not, say, a chapel?

They don't use it as one, at least most of the time. There are too many people passing through for it to be a place of worship or reflection. Once you start selling entry to tourists you lose the right to demand they do something other than tourism, IMO.

If they really wanted to keep it as a place of worship they'd close it to the unbaptized and allow free entry (as is done with the Kaaba IIRC). Of course, that would be much less profitable.

Just on a point of fact, you can worship/reflect/meditate anywhere, of course. It's like being at a pop concert in some ways, the imagery was commissioned with a purpose - which at least in part was to aid worship of God - if everyone is waving cameras around that inhibits that purpose in a way which is easily remedied. Cutting back to the thread start I was offering a reason to prohibit photography in the Sistine Chapel that I felt was better than some others, that's all.

Second point: The Kaaba, in Mecca is only accessible to Muslims. There are Umrah/Hajj costs to pay to get anywhere near the Kaaba.

Was there some part of "even if it still were" that you found confusing? Obviously it "was" a chapel, now it's a tourist attraction.

> Now if I go picking apart your need to hide from God

Don't be a fool, I'm not hiding from something that doesn't exist. I don't have any "needs" related to your delusions.

True, but 1000 flash bulbs going off every minute is also not helping to see anything at all.

Never said it was.

Yeah, sure, Mr. "Smalltalk and C# developer", the Sistine Chapel is a tourist attraction.

I am not sure if you have "delusions of a creator" but you sure seem to have other delusions.

Some people on Hacker News are honestly embarrassingly retarded.

It is a tourist attraction and you'd be a fool to try and deny that.

> Some people on Hacker News are honestly embarrassingly retarded.

Yes, you are.

That makes sense

It is kind of difficult to copyright a 500 year old piece of art. BUT you can control access to it.

I'm assuming you wrote that comment before your morning coffee...

Probably some glasshole.

Am I the only one finding it ironic that they used (Adobe) Flash to show the chapel to the whole world, when tourists can't use (camera) flash to show it to their close friends?

Well, just jacquesm, I simpathize with the stewards: "please, no flash" :(

i just find it ironic they used flash since there's webgl solutions now for this that would work on mobile devices a lot better.

At the same time you have to consider that this isn't new, as already pointed out.

From an American copyright point of view... Is this copyrightable? It is a reproduction of a work of art that is no longer under copyright. The image itself offers no creativity, other than as a reproduction.

This is amazing. The paintings make a lot more sense seeing them in context.

Also, who knew, the Vatican knows how to hire good software engineers. I guess they did hire Michelangelo too though.

it may be nitpicking, yet - the projection seems strange at the borders of the viewport. And there are a lot of 3d TVs/monitors out there - could have done a 3d version :)

Needs WASD to move, and a more "standard" mouselook.

For real. WASD would be a huge improvement.

Funny - I just got back from Rome 2 days ago and was in the Vatican - imagine the surprise when I saw this on top of of Hacker News.

The experience of being in the sistine chapel is nice but a bit spoiled by the fact that there are hundreds of tourists in the chapel as well and Italian guards are pushing you to move and be in the center (Often yelling at tourist who aren't moving fast enough and throwing out of the chapel anyone trying to take a picture).

I was there last week but we did the evening tour (8pm). Not very crowded at all - I had time to sit on the benches and stand as long as I liked in the centre.

The evening tours are seasonal I believe.

I've been looking for Waldo for hours now. No luck.

I was luck enough to score an after hours (nightime) guided tour of the Basilica (including this chapel) several years ago. We nearly had the entire place to ourselves and saw rooms that were kept off the general tour. We saw stone that is now extinct and art that melted my face. We lingered so long the guards chased us out. There are no words for how beautiful this place is.

For a room where you spent the whole time looking up... that gimbal lock is really annoying.

Quaternions, please?

Now if they could only add in bing-like hyperlinks to every depictable image in there so I could actually know what I'm looking at!

Very, very beautiful site though and wonderfully fresh idea coming from such an arcane institution. I like it a lot.

Hah, got me thinking maybe PG's pre-Viaweb startup idea to put art galleries on the Web was just too far ahead of its time[1].

[1] http://paulgraham.com/bronze.html

VRML was a big deal back in 1994. At least it was supposed to be ;-)

I'm 90% sure the vatican did this basilicas 3D browser in VRML more than a decade ago but I can't seem to find any proof on archive.org :)

The performance of this is crazy good. I clicked from mobile and the scrolling was very fast and smooth, which is strange because the desktop version is flash I think :O

I would hope that museums across the world along with locations like this would have this technology applied. I would not mind small fees to use on private collections.

Cool! Although it kind of stutters a little bit as I move around (very very minimally but just enough to break the flow). MBPR 2012, Chrome.

Too bad, what ever it is I'm not gonna be able to se it. ERROR: "Adobe Flash Player 9/10 or higher needed"

What role do you think the `Sistine-Chapel.xml` file, included in the html source's `embedpano` script, plays?

Looks to control display according to device type and music playing.

This game has good graphics, but I'm not really into the art style. They should get a new texture artist.

on a thread dominated by insightful comments on religion history and art I hate to do this but ... I can't get pinch to zoom to get in close on the iPhone - is the image only "as seen from ground level" or can you really get up close if using a PC?

Just wait until they add VR support!

Has the actual Chapel aged so well or have the images been reworked to give show more color?

They recently had a multi-year restoration.

Before that it was almost completely black from soot and smoke.

Relatively recently ;-)

According to Google "The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel and in particular the ceiling and accompanying lunettes by Michelangelo have been subject to a number of restorations, the most recent taking place between 1980 and 1994."

I know that Paul Debevec worked in the Sistine Chapel. Is this his work?

I'd have preferred WebGL over Flash.

I love the internet and this is why!

Wow - though music a bit too much.

Palestrina. You couldn't get more appropriate music for the times this was painted. I think a couple decades after.

Not saying the music choice is inappropriate - I think it fits the piece perfectly. But - IMO - art spectatorship should be sober and limited only to elments the artist intended. So any use of extra music to enhance my experience feels redundant. But hey, that's why we have the mute button :D

Can't admire.

I am flash impaired.

Super cool!

I went from Seventy Two to Sisty Four (sic) karma points all because of this stupid chapel. Get over your religious nostalgia and get back to real tech news... Thanks.

There's nothing technically novel about this. It's also kind of offensive given the mass genocide committed in the name of religion. Hacker News turning to Christian News.

The biggest genocides were committed by these atheist regimes -



Here's one excerpt, "Raised in the Georgian Orthodox faith, Stalin became an atheist. He followed the position that religion was an opiate that needed to be removed in order to construct the ideal communist society. His government promoted atheism through special atheistic education in schools, anti-religious propaganda, the anti-religious work of public institutions (Society of the Godless), discriminatory laws, and a terror campaign against religious believers. By the late 1930s, it had become dangerous to be publicly associated with religion.[97]"

That hardly obfuscates the fact that people WERE mass murdered in the name of religion.

So, people were mass murdered in the name of both theism and atheism. What does that mean?

I can separate the work of the man that created this from religion, and I don't see your link between this work of art and genocide. And that's from someone who strongly identifies as an atheist. It's impossible to see something like this that someone worked on for approximately 5 years and not both respect it, be awed by its technical mastery and to appreciate the fact that it came to us through hundreds of years in the state in which it is today.

HN is at absolutely no risk of becoming Christian News because of this particular link. If anything it shows that even the Vatican can go with the times, which means there is hope of further enlightenment in the future.

This must be one of the best examples of a straw man argument i've read :)

old stuff

I like how God has these really buff arms... He must bench-press at least 225lb.

that's gay!

Looks like flash is still good for something.

Sixteen chapel? What about the other fifteen?;)

If you look straight down "Copyright Musei Vaticani". Is that really on the floor at the Sistine Chapel or just for this web version?

They probably replaced the camera tripod with that.

Just remember: whatever piece of code you're working on right now; whatever tiny feature on a tiny website you're trying to implement; that is your Sistine Chapel.

How true - a death march project of absurd scope driven by the ego of a tyrannical leader forcing you to use a technology you have barely any experience of, or interest in, taking you away from your real passion and expertise under threat of destitution.

You slave away day in day out through illness, injury and 1000 anxieties but, as someone once said... artists ship :)

I can't figure out if this is meant to inspire or to depress.

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