Precisely because the Church has always held to an elevated view of the person, it has always sought to honor and protect it—by saving abandoned infants in ancient Rome, feeding and educating the poor during the Dark Ages, fighting assaults on the sanctity of life in the modern era, and teaching the truth about man through every century. The Church has also, everywhere and always, been the guardian and patron of beauty. That fact is brilliantly highlighted in the exquisite new documentary The Vatican Museums 3D, which combines the knowledge of the Church-appointed Director of the Vatican’s many museums with the skills of top-notch filmmakers using the latest technology.
This film shows close-ups and panoramic images of the works collected or sponsored by the popes over hundreds of years, and tells the stories both of ancient artworks restored and protected by papal conservators, and of sacred artworks commissioned by the popes such as Michelangelo’s Sistine Ceiling. The eloquent narration brings these artworks to life, and their beauty awakens in the soul the longing for the Good and the True, as Christian artists have known since the early Church.
I hope that every Christian makes the time to see this powerful film, and brings along his kids. There is too little good art produced today, and even less that seems infused by the elevated notion of human dignity that drove the popes to preserve and sponsor art. Such art feeds the soul and can even strengthen the will to resist temptation—especially the all-pervasive post-modern temptation to whittle down man to the size of a clever monkey, and treat the human person as a means to self-gratification or some other unworthy end. St. John Paul II wrote that Christ “reveals man to himself,” taking the image of God and filling it with His own substantial reality. The images of great artworks can help us see past mere appearances, to the sacred, eternal truths that dwell in the flesh in the shape of our neighbors—whose souls are of such importance that the God-man was willing to die to save them.