Ever since the Corinthian temporarily transformed its downtown event space into a larger-than-life version of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel, the Vatican reproduction hasn't been met without criticism. To which we respond: Yes, the images of the chapel’s ceiling are just prints and not technically high art, but they are high on the ceiling and pretty cool to look at.
Here are five reasons we recommend making a visit to the Corinthian before the exhibition—now extended through Labor Day—is finally up.
1) The exhibition is, in some ways, more in-depth than the MFAH exhibition earlier this summer
Yeah, the MFAH’s “Michelangelo and the Vatican” had original works from the famed Italian artists and other greats like Titian and Raphael, but the exhibition on the whole was broad. It showcased the different popes, Vatican-building process, Michelangelo’s cartoons, and more.
The Corinthian, however, focuses solely on the Sistine Chapel, which is arguably one of the most iconic images of the Vatican. Instead of spending hours absorbing oh-so-extraneous details about the Vatican’s dome (which I’ll admit, are kind of interesting), you can take the time to learn about the significance of every image on the chapel ceiling.
2) You can look at the images closely
At the Vatican, the ceiling is very, very high up and the whole room almost slaps you in the face with color, which makes it difficult focus in on any one image. Here, the prints are arranged around the room as they are in the actual chapel, but lower and on larger canvases. Some are on the ceiling, which really isn’t that high up, and some are at eye level, so you can really look at them. You can gaze at the wrinkly faces and muscular arms of the feminine oracles and speculate just how much interaction Michelangelo really had with women.
3) It’s less crowded and overwhelming than the Vatican
When touring the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel is one of the last stops. First, you must navigate a dizzying maze of dozens of rooms—I lost count after 50—filled with thousands of years of art. By the time you get to the chapel, you’re exhausted.
And once you're inside, it's so crowded and loud, in spite of all the “quiet” signs and Vatican staffers and busybody visitors shushing you, that you can hardly imagine this was ever supposed to be a spiritual experience. You don’t even get to spend that much time in there—the staff is basically trying to usher you in and out as quickly as possible, like you’re cattle.
The Corinthian, on the other hand, doesn’t have those large claustrophobia-inducing crowds. Besides the soft monastic-like music playing, it’s quiet, calming, and no one is there to shuffle you along. Plus, there are plenty of couches and armchairs to enjoy.
4) It’s way, way cheaper than the Vatican
The basic tour of the Vatican is approximately the same price as the Corinthian exhibition ($15 to $20), but here you don’t have to pay to fly all the way to Rome and book a hotel room. And, while the basic tours are the same price, the Vatican has all these different tour options that can really rack up the costs, plus a trip to the gift shop and one of the nearby gelato places. The Corinthian is nice, affordable, and less than two miles from Ninfa's. Personally, we'd take the fajita option any day.
5) The audio guides are awesome
The guides here are only $2 and explain in detail about each image on the ceiling on the chapel, giving background, fun facts, and historical context to why Michelangelo chose the images he did. You learn which Vatican leader's image Michelangelo painted to be suffering in Hell in the “Last Judgment” and understand why placing the image of the “Creation of Eve” so close to the center of the ceiling legitimizes the Vatican’s power and role in the Christian community.
Also, the guides have headphones included, which, for me, is the true marker of a quality audio guide.
Thru Sept. 3. Tickets $20. The Corinthian, 202 Fanin St. 713-222-2002. More info and tickets at chapelsistine.com.