Lonely Planet Writer

The Vatican's Sistine Chapel show will have lasers, acrobats and Sting

As the headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, Vatican City in Rome may not seem like a typical setting for a surround-sound, live show with acrobatics and laser technology, but it has been announced that a high-tech telling of the tale of artist Michelangelo and his Sistine Chapel masterpiece will take place at an auditorium there in 2018.

The artwork of Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine ChapeI. Image: Andrew Nguyen / EyeEm

Universal Judgement: Michelangelo and the Secrets of the Sistine Chapel is a €9m production that will be presented at the 1500 seat Conciliazione Auditorium on the street leading up to St. Peter’s Square from 15 March. The show won’t be permanent but a finish date has not been announced. The hour-long production is being created by Marco Balich, who specialises in marrying lights, music and live performances at Olympic ceremonies‍ and stadium events across the world.

Part of the artwork of Michelangelo on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Image: Rajesh Gathwala/Getty Images

Vatican Museums has collaborated with Balich to create the spectacle, and full immersion music has been composed for it by the musician Sting. Auditions are being held in Rome for dancers and main male protagonists to take part in the show, which will have live acrobatic performances. The Sistine Chapel masterpieces have been replicated through laser technology, and the show is being fitted with a special arched projection screen that is the same size as the actual chapel to give attendees a 270-degree perspective.

Part of the artwork of Michelangelo that adorns the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Image: Fotopress/Getty Images

Balich says that the show will “unveil the secrets of the Sistine Chapel” and will cover subjects like the whispers and creation of black and white smoke of papal conclaves and the painting of Michelangelo’s Last Judgement. Visitors will see computer-generated images of the Sistine Chapel as it was being built and while it was being painted, and admission will cost around the same as a movie ticket.

Pope Francis and accredited ambassadors to the Holy See at the Sistine Chapel in January 2017. Image: Vatican Pool/Getty Images

At the launch of the project, Vatican Museums director, Barbara Jatta, explained that the show aims to capture the attention of the younger “screen generation,” providing an unparalleled educational opportunity to bring art, culture and faith to younger audiences. The Vatican will not make money from the production but will receive “contained” royalties, and Balich has already received requests to take the show abroad.