Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Michelangelo in Mexico

Earlier in this trip I showed you the construction that was underway on the Zócalo, Mexico City's main plaza.  They were building a life-size replica of the Sistine Chapel that was to be open to the public from April 20th until May 19th.  Although admission was free of charge, you had to sign up online for an available time slot.  Alejandro got four tickets for Saturday at 1:40 P.M.  I hoped that the inside was better than the outside, because, frankly, I thought it looked rather tacky, cluttering up the historic plaza with tents that made it look as if the circus had come to town.  

On Saturday afternoon, Alejandro, his sister Sandra, his nephew Ezra, and I got in the car to go downtown.  The drive was not too bad until the last mile where traffic was terribly snarled.  We parked in a parking garage some distance from the Zócalo.  Then we walked at a double fast pace to the plaza fearing that we might not be admitted if we did not arrive on time.  Well, we didn't have to rush.  Apparently you really didn't need to make a reservation.  There was a long line of people who did not have tickets.  Those of us who had tickets were guided to a much shorter line, but even so, we stood around for maybe fifteen minutes before being admitted.

Face masks were required for admission.  Fortunately we were all wearing high quality masks because, in spite of the assurances of the city government, there was absolutely no social distancing.

This exhibition was authorized by the Vatican, and has toured all over the world.  Before entering we were told that photography was forbidden and cell phones must be turned off.  The only place where photography was permitted was in the first tent which contained replicas of pieces of art from the Vatican Museum.  Unfortunately none of these copies were labeled so we had no idea what we were looking at or the artists who did the originals.  This tent was basically just a holding area where we stood around for another fifteen minutes before we were herded into the next tent.

In the next tent we stood and watched a video in Spanish about the history of the Sistine Chapel.  Then we entered the reconstruction of the chapel, a faithful reproduction right down to the candlesticks on the altar.  Thousands of digital photos had been taken of the frescos and printed on the cloth walls and ceiling of the structure to create the illusion of being in the real chapel in the Vatican.  The lights were dim at first, and you couldn't really see the artwork very well.  After everyone was inside, there was a short presentation on Michelangelo's paintings with lights projected on various sections of the artwork.  The lights were then turned on fully, and we had a few minutes to admire the chapel.  It was indeed impressive, although some wrinkles in the fabric walls betrayed the fact that you were not in the real thing.  We didn't have that much time to look at the paintings before we had to leave so that the next group could enter. I suspect that if you are a visitor to the Vatican you are herded in and out without that much time to carefully study Michelangelo's frescos.

From the chapel you then enter a tent where you can buy official souvenirs, and then another larger tent where vendors were selling Mexican products and handicrafts that had nothing to do with the Sistine Chapel. 

Then you go outside where you can pose for photos in front of some pictures of the chapel.

I'm glad that we went, but it really was not a thoroughly satisfying experience.

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