Tuesday, December 08, 2015

The Light Show Upon the Facade of the Basilica of St. Peter

This evening at the Vatican, a wonderful light show illuminated the facade of St. Peter's.

Oddly enough, Fr. Z and some of his readers found it sacrilegious.  Such holographic light shows are wonderful examples of contemporary visual art which often take for its canvas the great facades of historic buildings.  It is very common in Europe and larger cities, such as NYC where several displays have been projected upon the facades of landmark buildings.  The technology is also used to create backdrop for theatrical performances and concerts.  All sorts of themes can be digitally displayed on just about any surface.

From what I understand, the light show was a gift to the Holy Father on the occasion of the opening of the Holy Year and to coincide with the climate change summit in Paris.
The initiative, featuring images by National Geographic and well-known photographers including Sebastiao Salgado, is similar to ones that used the U.N. headquarters and the Empire State Building in New York as backdrops. - Source
At least one reader at WDTPRS understood the event, and left the following comment:

  1. Polycarpio says:
    Let me take a stab at defending the light show, which coincides with established light shows in Europe which commingle secular and sacred objectives. December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, celebrated in France since the 1800s with the Fête des Lumières, in which the Basilica of Fourvière and other buildings are lit up with flares, fireworks and other light-based decorations including similar projections as the one today. Obviously, the tie-in with the environmental imagery is the recent papal encyclical ‘Laudato Si’ by Pope Francis. Moreover, the presentation today was entitled “Fiat Lux,” an obvious reference to Genesis, and the showcasing of the wondrous biological and natural diversity in the slide show is a great tribute to God’s mercy as reflected in the Creation. In short, the projection can be argued to constitute the technological 21st century version of the Sistine Chapel ceiling for a digital age. I thought it was beautiful.
To each his own, of course, but I especially like public art events like this.

I'm not trying to defend the Pope or engage in a dispute over the subject, but I see nothing wrong with the light show and certainly agree that it is a sort of 21st century version of not a few frescoes which embellish halls and corridors, chapels and chambers, facades and doorways in the Vatican.


  1. I don't particularly care for it myself but it's not like they spray painted graffiti on the building.

    1. And that's cool. We don't have to like these things - but I think calling it sacrilege is way over the top.

      I'm not sure if it was on the vigil or the actual solemnity - but the rosary was prayed in St. Peter's square as well.

      I like hologram stuff and digital art, so I just don't really see a problem with the event.

      Happy feast day!

  2. Terry you might want to change your tune after reading this from LifeSite News: https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/sacrilege-catholic-leaders-react-to-vaticans-climate-change-light-show?utm_source=LifeSiteNews.com+Daily+Newsletter&utm_campaign=8d058ea815-LifeSiteNews_com_Canada_Headlines_06_19_2013&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_0caba610ac-8d058ea815-397689497

    The sources for production and artists or involvement have some really bad pagan and false gods behind them.

    1. I can't get worked up over it. I don't see anything conspiratorial in the Vatican permitting the work. Tour the Vatican and there is plenty of pagan influence in the decor. Evidently people are complaining there was nothing Catholic or Christian displayed in the images or show - well gee wiz - the light show was displayed upon the exterior of the Basilica - how Catholic can you get?

      It attracted the attention of the world, people who would otherwise maybe not pay any attention to the Church, the Holy Year, even the concern over man's exploitation of nature which effects the peace and stability of the world. The Pope has called attention to that in a big way with his encyclical. He doesn't embrace the ideology associated with these issue, but he recognizes problems related to climate change and man's exploitation of the environment and abuse of nature.

  3. The hour-long light show can be watched on YouTube:

    I watched it only a few minutes before my eyes started tearing up. It is beautifully done.
    And the symbolism of the Church being an embracing support for all of God's creation wasn't lost.

    1. That's what I came away with as well. All I thought about while watching "thr Lord truly is merciful and loving. He chose to surround his creatures with the beauty of nature, his own glory as a sign of his tenderness towards us his weak children." Anyway, the thought gives me hope and consolation amidst the current darkness.

      Thanks for the link and your thoughts.

  4. So then you disagree with the following? Explain your contrary position please.

    "The Vatican basilica is a consecrated building. This is a non-sacred use – in fact it is an irreverent use – of a consecrated building.

    St. Peter’s is, without question, a sacred place and object (a very large one, too!). It is, without question, dedicated by the Church to sacred purposes. The use of this sacred building and place (where St. Peter was martyred and buried, a pilgrimage place, etc. etc. etc.) as a projection screen for mere secular purposes is irreverent treatment."


    1. The world is a consecrated place - humanity is consecrated. Even by the Popes - since Pius XII - who consecrated the world to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. Suddenly God's creation, as shown upon the facade of St. Peter's is profane?

    2. Sorry, you don't seem to understand the consecration of a church properly. Perhaps ask Fr Z for clarification.

      Something either is sacrilege or it's not. It's a fallacy to suggest, 'Well a theologian said it was ok'. It's moral relativism to suggest because other sin exists then this one is ok.

      Joking (hopefully) about ISIS blowing up St Peter's is not appropriate either.

    3. True - my joke was inappropriate. However, in the end the Basilica will be destroyed - isn't that what happens when the towers fall at the end of the world?

      I do understand the consecration of churches. I doubt this is a sacrilege - if, as you say, something is a sacrilege or not - this wasn't.

      How is a facade of light-images overlayed upon the facade of a church a sacrilege? There was nothing profane, nothing obscene in the work.

      If you are convinced it was - perhaps it needs to be re-consecrated then? Or perhaps the end will come sooner than expected?

    4. I checked out your blog - you subscribe to the Remnant.

      I don't.

    5. Sacrilege: “The irreverent treatment of sacred things, persons or places, i.e., those dedicated by God or the Church to sacred purposes.

      Maybe you don't understand what reverence in a Catholic church context is?

      Fr Z, who I hope you'll concede knows more about such things than you or I does believe it was sacrilege.

      The primary purpose of any church is the worship of God. They are not suppose to be venues for secular purposes: concerts, lectures, slide shows, etc. I realize it's not uncommon for a church to deviate from its sacred purpose but that doesn't mean it's right.

      Can. 1210 Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion are permitted in a sacred place; anything not consonant with the holiness of the place is forbidden. In an individual case, however, the ordinary can permit other uses which are not contrary to the holiness of the place.

      Actually, I don't subscribe to the Remnant but maybe you should. It's interesting that of all the links I provide on my blog that's the one that you make mention of.

      I also find it interesting what other people focus on: the idea or the person presenting it. Says a lot, don't you think?

    6. You are correct - I mistakenly judged you by the subject of your blog posts and to whom you link. I'm sorry.

      You are right - Fr. Z knows and understands these matters much better than I do - as do the editors for the Remnant.

      I don't understand what reverence is in a Catholic church context is - I'll try to do better.

      Thanks for the correction.

      I still don't think it is a sacrilege - otherwise the Sistine should maybe be whitewashed - but it's not my issue.

      That said since Canon 1210 says: "In an individual case, however, the ordinary can permit other uses which are not contrary to the holiness of the place." I think the Pope might get by with the light show since he is not only the 'local ordinary' but the Supreme Pontiff.

      So not to worry!

      Happy holidays!

    7. You're welcome.

      The local ordinary must exercise his office within the authority of Magisterium. That means he can't make up his own rules - that's what Protestants do. There was nothing holy about the light show last night.

      The Church survived the Borgias, we'll survive the Bergoglio.

    8. And we'll survive the critics on both sides of the aisle too ... thanks be to God!

      Viva il Papa!

    9. I believe it was Fr Z who said you can fall into the ditch from either side of the road.

    10. KWTC - I didn't mean to give the impression I thought Fr. Z was correct - I just meant he really does know and understands much more than I do. I have a feeling he wants readers to know that when he writes, he writes with full knowledge and deliberate consent.

      I thought the light show was splendid - and holy - given the canvas it was displayed upon.

    11. Except Fr Z is right - he proved his proposition using basic reasoning and a definition. I provided Canon Law. That's the difference between subjective opinion and objective truth.

      Your proposition is something becomes holy when displayed on a holy place. Really? So if we project a speech by Richard Dawkins, Cecil Richards, or Osama Bin Laden on St. Peter's Basilica it would then be holy?

      I've done my best to help here so will move on. Merry Christmas.

    12. KWTC - Thanks very much - you've been very patient and kind. That really isn't my proposition but I can see where one might interpret it as such. My failure in communication, I suppose.

      The issue has taken on a life of its own and I'm moving on as well.

      Merry Christmas to you too! God bless.

  5. I think context is important. This wasn't merely an art display (putting aside the question of whether a photographic light show can even be called a valid form of art). This light show was done in conjunction with other light shows around the world whose sole purpose was to promote the climate change ideology being currently pushed in Paris.

    Some say that this light show was done in honor of the start of the Year of Mercy or the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I think that's nonsense. Nothing in the light show made reference to either event. This was purely a politically-driven display.

    That said, I'm no theologian so I don't know whether this could technically count as sacrilege. Given the Catholic Encyclopedia's definition of a type of local sacrilege, I'm inclined to this that this would at the very least dance dangerously close to the line:

    "the doing of certain things (whether sins or not), which, either by their own nature or by special provision of law, are particularly incompatible with the demeanour to be maintained in such a place. Such would be for instance turning the church into a stable or a market, using it as a banquet hall, or holding court there indiscriminately for the settlement of purely secular affairs." - Catholic Encyclopedia

    1. I respect the decision to host the work - I am certain theologians were involved in determining whether or not it was appropriate or not. I just don't see it as sacrilege - but I'm no expert. I do consider it art however. As such - there's always the controversy over nudity in the Sistine, as well as the pagan art which is part of the Vatican Museum collection. Then for sure there is Curia who do naughty things. The Church is filled with scandal and sacrilege inside and out.

      Perhaps ISIS can manage to level it because of the abomination of desolation, and we can finally have that poor Church the Pope hopes for.

    2. I should have added: Hope springs eternal! Big Christmas hug to you! ;)

    3. Administering Holy Communion to the masses, at what passes for papal liturgies these days, is a much closer match to the definition of "sacrilege" than the projection of images of creation on the façade of St. Peter's.

  6. I think the main problem with the nutters is the climate change thing....(which I didn't see it here as that as much of a celebration of nature, which God created...)I don't understand the iron strong link between anti climate change and "Traddies." I mean, you can ignore the science or find some fringe scientist which will dispute it, or you just don't give a damn, or you think the jury is still out but what is this connection between the two? Can anyone explain...(and Im not a tree hugger but ..)

    What ever Francis does he can't get a break with those people. I do agree with one of Zbags posters that while its not sacrilegious, but just kind of tacky..( I am sure it looked cool in person though, and I love that the stuffy Vatican is getting its attic windows opened to fresh air by Francis.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Happy Holidays yourself, (I save Merry Christmas for the actual week of ...)

      Eames chairs and fur rugs...sounds like you have a batch cave doing there Terry...BE-HAVE! I think I'll pull up a chair and you can pour me a cocktail you son of a gun you.

      Speaking of guns I love nature and all animals but are surrounded by hunters who ply their trade and bring their murderous results home. Not that I mind eating them, I am a hypocrite and don't like the actual hunting part of going hunting..if that makes sense...(hey someone's got to keep the fire going and the beer cold right?) I am reminded by the beauty and the ugliness of nature when my sweet little terrier has a freshly killed rodent in her mouth as she wags her tail in happiness. And I refuse to not have wood fires burning all through the winter..how else do you survive winter in the midwest if not with some red wine and a fire burning?

    3. Zebra rugs. Sheep skins for the cat. Leopard print for Mrs. Dubcek.

      All I meant is that despite my sins I'm all for the ethical treatment of animals, I believe we need to be more concerned about the environment, and despite the fact their maybe inconsistencies in the research, climate change is real - though man is not entirely responsible I think there is evidence man is partly to blame - or at least the cause and effect of many grave threats to the planet, civilization, and peace. Poodles don't start wars, or starve entire countries, or force refugees to flee.

      So many traditionalists will carry on about heavenly chastisements which will devastate the world - including the destruction of great basilicas, but they themselves cry to heaven for vengeance when something like the light show happens, or the pope criticizes the universal idolatry of money.

      Excuse my hyperbole.

      Seasons greetings then, you filthy animal. (That's from "Home Alone")

      I think it's interesting how upset people get. I really wasn't upset - just incredulous at the reactions of so many concerned church people.

      Oh wait - I almost forgot - to complete my right-wing-politically-incorrect profile: I'm against assault weapons and Glocks - esp. for priests. Haha! Seriously - I could never own a gun. I can't be trusted. That's no joke. If my family had a gun, I wouldn't be alive today. On second thought ...

    4. Funny, my little terrier loves to sleep on my sheep skin on my bit leather chair by the fireplace which is my favorite chair and like an idiot, I won't make her get out when I want to sit down, I go sit on a less comfortable chair so yea, I get it. I also get that some people are more pulled to some issues then others. I am more concerned with animals then I am say, children issues, not that I think they are more important but that just aint my thing, there are enough people working on that. These crazy Traddies are so concerned that they showed animals and not as more then one person wrote, "Showing images of aborted babies." Uh, okay throw a picture of an annoying kid in there but no aborted babies cause...well, do I have to explain Trudy Traddie??? Granted, that is one issue and this is another..why don't you get your Power Point working on a slide show of your cause and present it?

      I just love it when the far right and far left get all upset about something stupid...the one thing both sides have in common is oversensitivity and no sense of humor..

      Zebra rugs and Eames.. I still say you are working on that Groove Lounge over there, and here I thought you were just working in your garden and going to Mass all the time.....

  7. Is Festivus valid and licit?

    I think that's a relative projection.

    Happy Festivus everyone!

    1. It non-liturgical.

      Happy Festivus to you too!

    2. To answer your first question more completely - liciety has nothing to do with it - the Festivus pole is metal and lice can't live on it as they might upon something organic, such as a Holiday Tree tree trunk.

    3. Oh that was awesome. Of course! One more reason to go with Festivus - no lice problem, not to mention that one is saving the environment by not cutting down tree every year for the Holiday Season. What a waste! Just the one pole and it lasts many lifetimes. That's savvy.

    4. I find it hard sometimes to understand the pronunciation of speakers on tv: but often it is pretty funny: the other night "I" heard: 'the police used lice and lasers.." as a weapon....pretty frightening: suppose it really was lights ... ?

    5. I like that Consolata.

    6. I like that Consolata.

  8. +JMJ+

    Without commenting on the light show itself (which I haven't watched), I must say that I agree with you, Terry. The Church used to be the greatest patron of the arts in the world and we got a glimpse of that again today, through a medium that speaks to us in ways that oils and canvas perhaps no longer do.

    Whether this particular example of art is worthy of the patron is what is really up for debate.

    1. Thanks Enbrethiliel - very good insight.

  9. The light show reminds me of the beasts released in the coliseum in Rome to rip the martyrs apart. The World Bank has the same agenda toward babies and the poor of the world. Population control is real and brutal. Ask the moms in Mexico, Kenya, and the Philippines whose tetanus shots were laced with HCG to make them miscarry. This was not an innocuous event by any stretch of the imagination.

  10. I agree with patronizing the art, and concerts have traditionally been held in churches in Europe, but this seemed unrelated to Genesis unless I missed that part. Here's one from Australia from a few years ago which seems maybe more appropriate or hopefully at least build a bridge between the theology since it is held in the Vatican itself.

    1. I have to let it go - it's all too confusing now ...

      I don't know what's going on ... I can't feel my teeth ... what?

  11. +JMJ+

    I was just about to send Terry a similar link!


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