A Beautiful Waste of Time


sistine chapel

I have recently discovered a link which lead me to the most perfect way to waste hours on the net. The link allows you to exlplore the digital corners of the Sistine chapel, inch by inch, and itseems to be exactly what the internet was created for.

For me, the link reintroduced me to a work of art whose story is equally as captivating as the color and images.   Consider with me the history of this painting;

When it came time to refresh the night sky that was originally painted on the Pope’s Chapel, the Pope turned to Michelangelo.   At first he wanted nothing to do with it.   He was a sculptor and was working on crafting this magnificent tomb for the pope.   He tried to convince the pope to go with his competition; a young painter named Raphael.

Eventually, the pope issued a pontifical edict, and Michelangelo had no other choice but realize that was the guy.   Not much wiggle room when it comes to pontifical edicts.

For five years in the early 1500s, the artist Michelangelo laid on his back and painted scenes depicting the fall and the flood on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.  They say the process was so strenuous he was left almost blind, and with permanently deformed spine.

The marvel of this undertaking was that the first time he saw the painting from the floor, was after it was done and the scaffolding was removed. That reality beautifully testifies to his artistic prowess. Experts argue that no one has ever had such a grasp of perspective in paint and art, since him.

It was instantly a treasure of the catholic church. Yett the magnificent art started to fade almost immediately as the scaffolds were down. Within a century of completing his greatest work, no one remembered what his original frescoes had actually looked like. An official artist in residence was quoted saying in 1936, “We see the colors of the Sistine ceiling as if through smoked glass.”

In 1981, a scaffold was erected to clean the frescoesl. With a special solution, two Art Historians and Preservationists began to gently wash one small corner of the painting. When finished, they then invited art experts to examine the work. The results were stunning. No one had imagined that beneath centuries of grime lay such vibrant colors.

Their success prompted the restoration of the entire ceiling. The task was completed in 1990. It took almost twice as much time to clean the ceiling as the artist utilized to paint it. But the result was breathtaking.

In the end, a Michelangelo was revealed that was unknown by art critics.

That artist was the master of form, and perspective, and his works always resembled more sculpture more than painting. Yet, this “new” Michelangelo was discovered to be one of the most profound masters of color—azure, green, rose, and lavender – to ever hold a paint brush.

And for the first time in nearly five hundred years, people viewed this masterpiece the way it was intended, in all of its color and beauty.

Why do I tell you this story?

To stress the importance of what we are called to do as a church for a new generation.

For too long, we have been citizens of a greater church that lost its way.   We have allowed demands for right thinking or right acting to drown out the true message of this place. We have allowed the loudest voices to own the biggest pulpits.   We have created a church that appears more like that of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

Because of that reality, most of the souls outside of faith see faith, and see Jesus as if through smoked Glass. Embracing the commitment to be a new voice is akin to washing the grime off the masterpiece. We dull those voices, so that one by one, others can catch a glimpse of the masterpiece – or the blessings beneath.

In case you want to waste your time too: http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html

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