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Virtual Reality Tour
Sistine Chapel

Tour the Sistine Chapel . . . in 3D

As part of a History of Creativity class at Brigham Young University we were required to do a creativity project. This could be anything we wanted as long as it was creative and incorporated some part of history from the class in it. After considering several different options I decided that I could recreate the Sistine Chapel from the Vatican in Rome, Italy. This chapel houses some of the most spectacular frescoes from Michelangelo in existence, but most of the time they are all viewed separately as individual pieces. I wanted people to be able to view the chapel in its entirety - to be able to enjoy all of Michelangelo's works and many others all in a glance, and then be able to focus in and study individual pieces that interest them. I wanted to recreate the experience of actually being there, without having to travel around the world. I decided to recreate the Sistine Chapel in virtual reality.


I built the chapel using software that creates a format called Virtual Reality Markup Language (VRML) . In this format, the scene would be easily accessible to everyone on the internet. The software I used was Vizx3D by Virtock Technologies, Inc. The plug-in/stand-alone player that I optimized the scene for was Octaga Player 1.8. I chose this player because it seemed the most compatible with the things I wanted to do with the scene. It could handle large texture mapping resolution and had good navigation controls. It was also closely tied with Vizx3d. If you use a different VRML plugin, the textures may not display correctly, especially the ceiling.

Note: In order to view the Sistine Chapel in Octaga Player, you must have a hardware-accelerated graphics card in your computer with at least 32 megs of RAM.

I built the textures on the walls of the scene by downloading the images of the frescoes individually and then restructuring the each entire wall piece by piece. I have never been to the Sistine Chapel, so this was the most difficult part. I also had to build the architecture of the room by looking at photos. I decided not to build the interior divider wall that separates the chapel into two sides because it would hinder navigation of the scene. You can see some photos of the real Sistine Chapel further down this page.

Viewing Instructions

Follow these instructions to properly view the Sistine Chapel:

1. Download Octaga Player from www.octaga.com. If you have Internet Explorer, it may be easiest to do the "Internet Explorer only" install from Octaga's website as everything is automatically installed. You may need to allow ActiveX controls to be installed. A yellow bar may appear at the top of the browser stating this. Click the yellow bar and choose "Allow Blocked Content." When it asks if you really want to let this content run, choose "Yes."

2. Depending on the speed of your connection and the capabilities of your computer's graphics card, there are two different versions of the Sistine Chapel you can view:

Sistine Chapel - High Resolution - 4 megabytes
Sistine Chapel - Low Resolution - 2 megabytes

Click on the version you would like to view, and the Octaga player should open up in your browser and begin to download and preprocess the file. (You may need to allow ActiveX controls to be installed. A yellow bar may appear at the top of the browser stating this. Click the yellow bar and choose "Allow Blocked Content").

After a few moments of loading, the virtual reality Sistine Chapel should appear like this:

First view of Sistine Chapel


The first thing you'll want to do is change the navigation speed. Everything defaults to a slow moving speed. To change this:

1. Right-click on the image and go to Navigation and then Speed.

2. A dialog box will pop up allowing you to change the speed and rotation speed. I have found 4 to be a good speed for both. Click the plus sign to increase the speed to the desired values.

Note: If your computer is slow, or your graphics card does not have enough memory, the scene may run slow no matter what you change the speed values to.


In order to navigate the virtual reality scene of the Sistine Chapel, do the following:

1. Left-click in the image and hold the mouse button down while you drag the mouse around. Move the mouse in the direction you want to go. The navigation defaults to "walk" mode and you should be able to walk around the room.

2. In order to see the ceiling or other paintings high on the walls you can change the navigation mode. Right-click and go to Navigation and then "Pan". You can now click and drag to look around from the spot you're standing on. You can look high to the ceiling or low to the ground. Note: If your view ever gets tweaked to a weird angle you can always straighten it back by right-clicking and going to Straighten or Reset Viewpoint.

3. To see the ceiling or other high paintings closer up you can use the navigation modes of "Slide" or "Fly." Slide will allow you to move vertically or horizontally from where you're standing. Fly will allow you to move in the direction you are looking.

What do you see in the Chapel?

As part of the project I did, I also created a diagram of all the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. With this diagram in hand you can know what you are looking at as you roam the virtual reality scene. You can download the high-resolution version of the diagram by clicking the preview below. Note: If you view it in Internet Explorer, the image will probably be automatically shrunk to fit in the window. Click the enlarge button that appears at the bottom-right hand corner of the image to expand it to full-size.

Sistine Chapel Diagram

Other Options

1. To see the chapel in more natural lighting as it would appear in the real thing, right-click and uncheck Headlight. This will give you a lighting level that is more close to the original Sistine Chapel.

2. If you right-click and go to Preferences, you can change many different options including the Max frames per second, rendering quality, navigation styles, optimization settings, and performance settings.

3. If you want to learn more about the Octaga Player, right-click and go to Help, and then online user manual.

Creativity Paper

As part of the project we were required to write a short paper describing why our project was creative and how it tied in with the history we studied in the class. Here is a link to my paper. The Creativity of The Sistine Chapel Virtual Reality Tour.doc

Photos from the real Sistine Chapel

Click each photo for a larger view:

Entrance WallLast Judgement WallLast Judgement WallOutside PhotoCreation of Adam


Other webpages about the Sistine Chapel:

Christus Rex - Sistine Chapel

Vatican Museums - Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel - Wikipedia

Web Gallery of Art - Sistine Chapel Tour

BBC News - Sistine Chapel Restored

Sistine Chapel Ceiling - Wikipedia


  © 2006 Bryce Haymond. All Rights Reserved.  This website is hosted by Netpagz.