Vatican City — The Sistine Chapel is now online.
The Vatican put its vast art collection on the Web on Tuesday, launching a new site for the Vatican Museums that it hopes will attract more tourists while also disseminating the church's message around the globe.
The site allows visitors to take a virtual reality tour of some of the dozen museums and galleries that make up the Vatican collection, zooming in on a frescoed panel in the Raphael Rooms or viewing Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel with a three-dimensional video.
Vatican officials said the goal of the site, mv.vatican.va/StartNew_EN.html, was to give potential tourists, scholars and curious Web browsers a sampling of the Vatican's holdings while taking advantage of the Internet and the "universal language" of art to spread Pope John Paul II's message.
Visitors can view entire galleries of the Egyptian and Etruscan museums, the Pinacoteca painting gallery, the Raphael Rooms and the Sistine Chapel part of a collection that the U.N. culture agency, UNESCO, has recognized for its place in the world's cultural patrimony.
The site also has information about museum hours and publications. There is no way to buy museum tickets online, but museum director Francesco Buranelli said that could be possible in the future, as could an online museum gift shop.