Despite Italy’s borders remaining closed to American travelers, you can still see the Sistine Chapel. On November 6, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition—an innovative photo reproduction of the hallmark of the Vatican Museums—will open in America’s Center, a sprawling convention center in St. Louis, Missouri. Visitors can remain socially distanced from each other but get up close to the photos of the ceiling frescoes and The Last Judgment, produced nearly to scale.
On a typical visit (pre-COVID) to the Sistine Chapel, you would join masses inching (and sometimes shoving) their way into the hall, then angle to find a spot to defend your territory and crane your neck up—way up. Michelangelo’s ceiling frescoes are more than 40 feet high, and though their restoration in the 1980s and ’90s have made the colors pop once again, admiring them at length, in detail, isn’t really possible. You also aren’t allowed to take photos inside the Chapel.
To view Michelangelo’s work in front of your nose, you could check out the Vatican’s 3-D rendition of the Sistine Chapel. But, like watching a movie on your laptop versus on an IMAX screen, it’s not the same.
In comes Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition, which has been incredibly popular since it debuted in the United States in 2016 at the Texas State Fair and has traveled the world, from Shanghai to Springfield, Massachusetts. Meanwhile, a $2.4 million, life-sized Sistine Chapel replica also opened in Mexico City in 2016, approved by the Vatican, and toured across Mexico for three years. Capilla Sixtina en Mexico is still around and worth a tour in the absence of Roman holidays.
With these large-scale images, created with “state-of-the-art technology” according to exhibit organizers, the artworks should feel more immersive. Visitors can study the Creation of Adam in its original size, looking for that breadth of space between God’s finger and Adam’s; or just linger for half an hour in front of The Last Judgment, a masterclass in Michelangelo’s body drawings.
Slight alterations to some images were made to account for the curvature of the ceiling: “Our mission was never to copy the entire ceiling, so some of the bordering elements such as the Ignudi angels and other framing devices are not included,” say exhibit organizers. There are 34 panels with an audio guide available. And if you miss the exhibit in St. Louis, it will travel on to Old Mission Santa Barbara, running May 23 to September 7, 2021.
Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel: The Exhibition will be open starting November 6, Thursdays through Sundays, 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., with timed ticketed entry and temperatures taken at the entrance. Masks are mandatory.