The occasional, often ill-considered thoughts of a Roman Catholic permanent deacon who is ever grateful to God for his existence. Despite the strangeness we encounter in this life, all the suffering we witness and endure, being is good, so good I am sometimes unable to contain my joy. Deo gratias!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Some neat Vatican Websites

The Vatican's presence on the worldwide web is quite extensive, but in addition to its main website (, this presence expands via an impressive number of other related sites. Most of these sites can be accessed via links on the Vatican's main website, but the links are not always easy to find. And so I thought I'd share direct links to some of my favorite sites with you. .

The Vatican Library. For all you scholars out there who have been trying to visit the Vatican Library, your wait is over. On September 20 the library will reopen after three years of renovations and the installation of a rather extensive security system. As you might imagine, the library is huge, with well over a million books and thousands of one-of-a-kind manuscripts, so the renovations were needed to protect and preserve this unique collection. The video (below) provides a nice overview.

As stated in the above video, only 150 scholars visit the library daily. It is, however, strictly a research library and not open to the general public. Back in 2005 when I asked a Vatican representative if I could take a tour of the library, he stared at me for what seemed far too long, and then just gave me a dismissive look  and shook his head. I suspect my lack of scholarly qualifications would continue to prevent my entry. As Professor Paul Burke of Clark University in Massachusetts relates in the below video, the procedure for entrance to the library is quite elaborate.

You can however visit the website of the Vatican Library, along with that of the Vatican Secret Archives. Both links are to the English language versions of the sites. They're actually pretty interesting sites, with lots of pages describing how the books and documents of the collection are preserved and reproduced. The sites also contain excellent photographs of many of the ancient documents stored in the Library and Secret Archives.

The Vatican Museums. If you've ever visited the Vatican and had more than a few hours, you probably also visited the Vatican Museums. They are absolutely amazing! I've been through them three times in the past ten years, but hope to make a more leisurely visit on my next trip. There is so much to see that it's probably wise to take one of the tours on your first visit, then return later to those areas that interest you. You can also purchase museum and tour tickets ahead of time on the website. .

But whether or not you've already been to the museums, you should definitely visit the website. The site includes a virtual tour of many of the key parts of the collections, including the Sistine Chapel. The panoramic view of the Sistine is truly remarkable -- almost as good as being there. In fact, on our last visit in 2008, the Chapel was so crowded that I found it difficult to appreciate its beauty fully. This site eliminates the crowds, lets you zoom right up to the beautiful artwork, and also includes some lovely choral music. Scroll left and right, up and down, zoom in and out to view every part of this remarkable work by Michelangelo. Photographs or videos are not permitted in the Sistine Chapel, so the website is the only (free) way one can relive the experience of a personal visit.

St. Peter's Basilica. Another wonderful site is the virtual tour of St. Peter's Basilica. Once again, it's almost as good as being there. If you're planning a trip to Rome, I recommend taking this online tour before you go. Here's the link: St. Peter's Virtual Tour.

Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. If, like me, you enjoy beautiful sacred music, you can visit the website of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music and listen to MP3s of several hours of sacred music. Enjoy!

Vatican Radio. Another site worth visiting, especially if you don't have a short-wave radio, is the Vatican Radio website. This radio station broadcasts throughout the world in 40 different languages. You can listen to their English-language broadcasts online, and even get MP3 and podcasts. It's really a very extensive site. The Vatican also has a TV station with broadcasts available online, but they're all in Italian.


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