A Study of the Sistine Chapel’s Theology

1st Volume of New Series Highlights Vatican Monument

ROME, NOV. 8, 2007 (Zenit.org).- Plenty of people have studied the art of the Sistine Chapel, but a new book published with the collaboration of the Vatican Museums aims to give “a new vision” — a theological one.

Jesuit Father Heinrich Pfeiffer’s “The Sistine Chapel: A New Vision” was presented recently in the Vatican Museums. It is the first volume of the “Select Vatican Monuments” series, a project undertaken by the Vatican Museums, the Vatican Publishing House and the Jaca Book editorial house.

Father Pfeiffer, a professor of Christian Art History at the Pontifical Gregorian University and a member of the Pontifical Council for Culture, explained in the epilogue that “the objective of this investigation of the Sistine Chapel has been precisely to show how the coming together of theology and history can produce completely unexpected results — in such a way that the word and the image also draw close together, and become capable of showing how they mutually complement each other.”

“The word finds again a body to animate and adequate clothing,” he said, “while the image not only delights the eyes, but transmits the great ideas that have inspired the history of humanity, as well as faith in God and in his action in favor of creation.”

The volume includes images of the entire chapel in full- and double-page photographs that reproduce the colors revealed by the frescoes’ recent restoration.

Participants in the presentation of the book included: Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo, president of the Governorate of the Vatican City State; Francesco Buranelli, director of the Vatican Museums; and Archbishop Giuseppe Antonio Scotti, president of the Vatican Publishing House.

The author emphasized that “the decoration of a church, not only of the Sistine Chapel, is not decoration in the sense we attribute to it. The decoration should give people who gather in these spaces the awareness of being living members.”

Next year, “Selected Vatican Monuments” plans the publication of a volume about the work of Rafael, followed by a book on the Vatican gardens.

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