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Stained Glass window viewed from inside St. Catherine's Church

Taking a close look at something very familiar

I was listening to the radio and heard about the project to take high resolution pictures of the Sistine Chapel roof. The project was kept under wraps until it was revealed to the public. Photographers worked from 7pm at night until 2am in the morning, for 65 nights to capture the high-res images of the frescoes. Using 33-foot-tall scaffolds, they shot the images using telescopic lenses, capturing 30 terabytes of data. The images are so crisp that the master painter's brush strokes are visible. Three books of life sized images have been produced at a cost of £10,000 limited to 1999 copies. The frescos were completed by Michelangelo in 1512. The paint/dye is applied to wet lime plaster. Once the plaster is dried it fixes the image, there is no reworking you just have one chance to get it right. These new pictures give us an idea what Michelangelo saw as he was painting these images onto the ceiling. It took him four years to paint the ceiling. I get a stiff neck after painting the ceiling for a couple of hours. He did this for four years under constant time pressure to finish before the plaster dried out, on scaffolding almost 20 metres off the ground. The main theme comes from the book of Genesis. The most famous image is that of creation and God reaching his hand out, to bring the spark of life to Adam.

The roof of the Sistine chapel was meant to be observed from the floor, the perspective you get is how Michelangelo imagined you would see his creation. Of course, with a pair of binoculars you can get a close-up view. We now get a view of how Michelangelo saw what he created. You can only marvel at the brilliance of his creation. It is interesting what a difference perspective makes. We often suffer from being so close to what we are doing that we fail to take a big step back and look at the bigger picture. We miss what is really going on because we become too self-absorbed. In contrast, we sometimes neglect the fine detail, and the big picture we have in our heads becomes impossible because we missed something small along the way. We often struggle to keep both perspectives going at the same time. It is something that we realise God does well. He steps back and can guide the bigger picture of our lives in ways that we may never have imagined. Yet he is equally present in the fine detail, where we find that we cannot see a way forward in that moment of time. One the great images of the Sistine chapel is that God is both present and involved in his creation. We sometimes forget to look for his handiwork in our lives, or fail to ask for help in both the fine detail and the big picture.

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