The Vatican Tour for Jews and Infidels

As a student of Renaissance art, I’ve been obsessed for years with the following question: “Am I the only one that’s noticed there is nothing from the New Testament in the entire Sistine Chapel Ceiling?” Think about it. The most important work of Catholic art ever, in the Pope’s personal chapel, consists of panels depicting Genesis, Noah, Jonah … scenes entirely from the Old Testament. Surrounding these panels are prophets, sibyls from pagan mythology, and a frat-house-worth of nudes. 300 figures in all, and not one Saint, Virgin or Savior, the subject matter of 99% of the Renaissance art found in Catholic churches.

So there I was, my first night in Rome, mentioning this to my friend James Barron, an ex-pat art-dealer who has lived there from years, and he replied “Actually there’s a new book about it, a collaboration between a Rabbi and a Vatican tour guide. It made the NY Times best-seller list.” That night I googled it and found, The Secrets of The Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo’s Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican, by Roy Derliner and Rabbi Benjamin Blech. The book argues that Michelangelo, unhappy with the Church and the Pope that commissioned him, drew heavily on Jewish culture and the doctrine of Kabbalah in designing the Sistine Chapel.

So my first point of biz in Rome …

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