The Sistine Chapel

By Lynda Millner   |   September 5, 2019
A copy of Michelangelo’s work at the Christ Cathedral

Part two of Lynda’s journey to Orange County with MClub. 

The new colors of the ceiling since the cleaning

Right now, there is even more to see at the Christ Cathedral campus –Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel exhibit. This traveling exhibition is on display at the Christ Cathedral Cultural Center. When I was in Rome in the 1960s the ceiling was 47 feet above my head and had not been cleaned yet. Now the giclee prints using state of the art imaging technology have been reproduced in their original size and hung at eye level. Amazing! The colors are brilliant. Arguably one of mankind’s greatest artistic achievements. While the depictions are religious, the frescoes are to be appreciated as art. The exhibit has been displayed in museums, cathedrals, and other venues throughout the United States, Europe, and South America.

Among the recreations are depictions from the Book of Genesis: “The Creation of Eve,” The Separation of Light from Darkness,” “The Drunkenness of Noah,” “The Temptation and Expulsion,” and “The Great Flood.” Michelangelo completed the Chapel ceiling November 1, 1512. In 1536 Pope Julius II summoned the artist to return to the chapel to redesign the altar wall. He spent five more years creating the “Last Judgment.”

Richard Payatt interpreted for us saying, “No matter what you’ve heard, Michelangelo did not paint the ceiling on his back. He stood up on scaffolding and had an army of workers to aid. He had never done a fresco before and it took four years to complete. Very little progress could be made in a day. It takes two hours for the plaster to be ready and then you have to work very rapidly before it dries so only a small area is possible at a time.”

More of the Sistine ceiling

In Richard’s opinion, Michelangelo never looked at a woman. His women are very muscular and masculine. He was thought to be gay and died in 1564.

Before Michelangelo, the ceiling was bright blue with stars. Through the centuries the roof leaked and smoke built up layers of soil darkening all the pictures. Long ago many experts thought the dark colors were the original ones. What a surprise once it was cleaned and what a treat to see it up close without the throngs of people in Rome.

Pageant of the Masters

Our next stop was Laguna Beach for the Pageant of the Masters. The bus headed for the Ayers Hotel in Laguna Woods located at the top of Laguna Canyon. Time for a short nap, wine, and pizza. One never goes hungry on Maria McCall’s trips with the MClub.

The entrance to the Pageant of the Masters in Laguna Beach

The Ayres family has a collection of European-inspired boutique hotels. In 1905 the great grandfather Frank took a $2 train ride from Ohio to California with his wife and their grandfather, Donald Sr., to explore land development opportunities. In those pre-Hollywood days, the warm climate and oranges were the main attractions bringing visitors to California (not avocados).

Great grandpa loved it and bought eight small ranches in the mid-Wilshire district of Los Angeles. Ayres Company prides themselves on high-quality development. Hotels began in the early ‘80s and today they have 24 handcrafted hotels around Southern California.

After our wine and pizza it was off to the Pageant of the Masters, which has been going on for 85 years. Our tour leader Maria McCall has been 30 times. There was time to browse the adjacent art show including photographs, sculpture, jewelry, hand crafted wooden furniture, ceramics and glass.

One of the highlights of the trip was the Pageant of the Masters, the tableaux vivants (living pictures) show that lasted almost two hours. We were in the loge in the 2,600-seat outdoor amphitheater. Not too near and not too far to view the exact recreations of classical and contemporary works of art with real people posing to look like their counterparts in the original works. When they showed bronze statues, the models were covered in gold paint. When it was carved wood, they looked like wood. I can’t imagine how many hours of time it took just to apply makeup and how expert the makeup artists had to be.

Since this is the 500th anniversary of Leonardo da Vinci’s death, he played a large role in the script. There is a 28-piece orchestra, original score, live narration, intricate sets, and sophisticated lighting. This year’s theme was “The Time Machine” based on the Wells book written in 1895. We were taken on a “ride” through the centuries.

By the air bus with the traveling Montecito Journal

As board president David Perry said, “I want to pay special thanks to the Pageant’s family of nearly 500 volunteers who’ve given their time and effort both in the cast and behind the scenes to bring The Time Machine to life. We never forget this show wouldn’t be possible without them. If a Time Machine were available to me, I’d love to go back to the 1930s to experience the spirit of the Laguna Beach art colony that gave birth to the Festival and Pageant. All of us touched by them are always grateful for the community support that continues to this day. Then I’d flash forward to the first time my daughter and I volunteered and were cast in the Pageant and got to experience the camaraderie backstage every night. My next stop: 50 years into the future where I hope I’d find the Festival and Pageant still going strong, still making Laguna Beach proud.”

This year they were able to purchase a new digital sound mixing console thanks to a generous donor that will make the sound in the outdoor venue even better. Lighting too has been much improved in the last 29 years with a new tech director.

Effects have become more sophisticated. It snowed in the bowl in 2003. In 2011 Tinkerbell soared over the audience and dragons took over. In 2016 a Venetian gondola floated out of the fog and ferried an opera singer into the night. This year we had a space ship hovering overhead.

The Pageant of the Masters is a meeting of science and art just as Leonardo suggested 500 years ago when he said, “Study the science of art.” For ticket sales and information, call 949.497.6582 or 800.487.3378.


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