Catholic World Report

Video on St. Peter’s facade ‘an encounter between ancient and modern,’ cardinal says

Courtney Mares   By Courtney Mares for CNA

The facade of St. Peter’s Basilica was illuminated on Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022, with 3-D projection mapping of Renaissance art from the Vatican Museums in a new light display titled “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter.” The display will be projected on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night until Oct. 16, 2022. | Vatican Media livestream screenshot

The facade of St. Peter’s Basilica was illuminated on Sunday night with 3-D projection mapping of art from the Vatican Museums in a new light display that seeks to combine new and old.

Cardinal Mauro Gambetti described the Vatican’s new light showcase as “an encounter between ancient and modern using 3-D production technologies to enhance masterpieces of the past with a message aimed at the future.”

The cardinal spoke in St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 2 at the opening of the light display, which is showing each night on the basilica for the next two weeks.

Thousands gathered in front of St. Peter’s Basilica to watch the eight-minute video, “Follow Me: The Life of St. Peter,” on the first night as the basilica was lit up with moving images of Renaissance art from the Vatican Museums.

The display featured Raphael’s “Transfiguration” and Pietro Perugino’s “Christ Giving the Keys of the Kingdom to St. Peter” as an Italian narrator told a basic story of the Church’s first pope.

The 3-D video mapping also highlighted architectural elements of the basilica exterior as it illuminated the Latin inscription “Tu es Petrus” (You are Peter), words from Matthew 16:18.

Andrea Bocelli performed as a special guest for the show’s inauguration. The Italian tenor sang several songs, including “Ave Maria” and “The First Noël,” a song from his new album set to be released at the end of October.

Gambetti, the archpriest of St. Peter’s Basilica, said that the video projection on the basilica is part of an initiative to make the Vatican basilica recognized as “the church that holds the tomb of the Prince of the Apostles” rather than as “a museum.”

“Now the pope wants us to insist on promoting St. Peter’s as a shrine and avoid the risk that it might become a museum,” Gambetti told Avennire in an Oct. 2 interview.

The cardinal noted that 40,000 to 50,000 people visit the basilica each day, often with tourist guides, which he said “inevitably creates an almost museum-like atmosphere.”

Under Gambetti’s leadership, the basilica, formerly reserved for prayer each day before 8 a.m., now allows large tour groups to enter in the early mornings. Private Masses were also restricted from the upper church soon after he became archpriest.

Gambetti acknowledged that there is a serious problem that “those who want to access, come to pray, or participate in liturgies … maybe have to wait more than an hour in line.”

He said that he is planning to make “incremental attempts to make the basilica more easily accessible to the faithful who come to pray with separate fast lanes from the tourists.”

The cardinal hopes to address these issues before the Church’s 2025 Jubilee Year, during which the Vatican expects 30 million people to visit.

“It is important that they see the face of the Mother Church that welcomes everyone. We thought of showing the image of the early Church, founded on Peter and his profession of faith,” Gambetti said when he announced the video-mapping initiative last month.

“We think that people will be guided by the example of Peter to encounter the Lord and their brothers and sisters, to live their experience as pilgrims, and to leave renewed,” he said.

The video display will be projected on the facade of St. Peter’s Basilica every 15 minutes between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. each night through Oct. 16.

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  1. I consider using the facade of St. Peter’s as a defamation of that which is holy. It’s not that bricks and mortar are holy but what the building houses inside that is holy. Is it any wonder that our Church has become increasingly desacralized? And, while I’m at it, celebrating Mass on the portico of the Vatican needs to end. It has only served to dilute the meaning of what happens INSIDE our Catholic churches. (But don’t expect anything to change under this pontificate.)

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