ST PETER'S BASILICA: A Virtual Tour (Gold Interactive, CD-ROM, MAC & PC, $107.00 including GST. Available from AD Books)
This CD-ROM "virtual tour" of St. Peter's Basilica is perhaps the next best thing to visiting Rome itself. It captures much of the beauty and grandeur of St Peter's and a little of its atmosphere. It also contains a wealth of information about most aspects of the Basilica from its artwork to the history of the buildings, and the Popes going right back to St Peter.
The menu allows a person to choose how to explore this magnificent place. The "visit" option is the most interactive as this allows one to move around the square and the Basilica in a "virtual reality", which is very lifelike indeed, and select any painting, mosaic or statue that takes one's fancy and view it in detail.
Once the object is selected, a brief history of the artist or architect is provided, the motivation or meaning behind the work and any other interesting facts. Some aspects of the tour give an audio description as well as a written one. You can even "walk" into the side chapels and down to St Peter's tomb. The richness of this great place is really bought to life with the fascinating descriptions of each piece of artwork. This part of the virtual tour provides you with information that you would not usually obtain while actually visiting St Peter's itself unless you had a tour guide and even then you would be hard-pressed to pick up such in- depth detail.
The architectural plans for the Seat of Peter dating back to the fourth century along with a timeline of the Popes from Peter to John Paul II can also be viewed. And a detailed description is given of the liturgy in regard to important events in the Church, such as the opening and closing of the Holy Door, canonisations, beatifications and Vatican councils.
This part is quite impressive as it contains actual video footage of certain events such as the opening of the Holy Door in 1950, the Second Vatican Council and other great moments in the Church this century. It also has an alphabetical glossary of names and terms.
With a wealth of information, beautiful presentation and a sound track that turns the mind towards the heavens this CD-ROM is a beautifully conceived package. If you cannot make it to St Peter's yourself, this, of course, will never replace the first hand experience, but it comes close in terms of viewing the Basilica in detail. And for those (like this writer) lucky enough to have been there, it is a first class way of remembering St Peter's in its magnificence and to learn a great deal more about it.
Catherine Sheehan is a Melbourne Catholic writer.