Masterpieces of Vatican Museums Now on Internet

Virtual Galleries Included Those Now Closed to the Public

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 24, 2003 ( An ambitious multimedia project has made it possible for Internet users to get a glimpse at the Sistine Chapel and other immortal works of Vatican art.

The novelty, offered on the Holy See’s Web page ( in the Vatican Museums section, took five years to complete. It was presented to the press today in the Vatican.

The most important works of Renaissance artists Michelangelo, Raphael, Leonardo da Vinci, and galleries of Egyptian and Classic Greco-Roman art are presented, with technical explanations given by experts who catalogue and conserve them.

Cardinal Edmund Szoka, president of the Governorate of Vatican City State, observed that the new site «further enriches the Holy See’s Web site, created years ago and in continual and progressive expansion.»

«For some time, the Church has paid great attention to the means of social communication, in order to more efficaciously perform her universal mission,» the Michigan-born cardinal said. «The Internet, with its enormous potential, allows us to approach an ever greater number of people and to spread throughout the world our message of evangelization.»

Archbishop Claudio Maria Celli, secretary of the administration of the patrimony of the Apostolic See, which oversees the Vatican’s Internet Office, noted the imposing work carried out by Vatican computer technicians to block viruses or cybernetic attacks.

Francesco Buranelli, director of the museums of Vatican City State, explained that the site «will allow the public to access the inestimable artistic heritage that these museums have preserved and protected for centuries,» and highlighted the «effort to make it possible in five languages: Italian, French, English, Spanish and German.»

Thanks to this new site, the Ethnological Missionary Museum can be visited. This museum has been inaccessible to the public for some time because it is being restructured.

The digitalization and presentation of the Sistine Chapel and the Raphael Rooms makes it possible for browsers to amplify aspects of the paintings.

Pictorial explanations have been prepared by directors of various sections of the museums. The sources of biblical texts that inspired the artists are also indicated.

Vatican spokesman Joaquín Navarro-Valls noted two aspects of the project: «the possibility of the virtual visit for people who live outside from Rome, and the possibility to personally choose the itinerary that will be followed in a real visit to the museums.»

Nicola Aliperti, a representative of Hewlett-Packard Italy, the company that gave technical assistance in the project, remarked that «in the future the patrimony presented in the Vatican Museums, which UNESCO defined as ‘the patrimony of mankind,’ will be accessible through the wireless means of palm pilots.»

Internet users cannot download the pictures on the Web page. If an attempt is made, the images will disappear automatically.

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