Religion News Service: In-depth. Impartial. Engaged.

Press Releases

The Best Kept Secret for 500 Years

29 Apr

For Immediate Release


April 29, 2008: On-sale today, HarperOne will publish what is sure to be one of the most controversial and talked-about books of the year. THE SISTINE SECRETS: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican by authors Roy Doliner and Benjamin Blech offers an inside look at hidden symbols and messages painted by Michelangelo that were discovered only after the cleaning and restoration of the Sistine Chapel. The book will be will be featured on ABC-TV's "Nightline," on May 1 and on "Good Morning America," May 2 and is the subject of an ABC prime time special "The Secrets of the Sistine" to air Friday, May 2 at 8:00PM.

The authors, one a well-known Rabbi, the other a Vatican docent, met when the Rabbi came to Rome as the head of a delegation of Jewish leaders to thank Pope John Paul for his efforts to bring about greater understanding between Judaism and Christianity. What happened when the Rabbi and the docent started to exchange their insights about the masterpieces in the Sistine Chapel has proven to be a groundbreaking turning point, a milestone responsible for a revolutionary new approach to unlocking the secret messages of Michelangelo.

Reading like a real life Da Vinci Code, the authors explain how Michelangelo's genius expressed itself on a number of levels. Driven by the truths he had come to recognize during the years of his study in "The Secret School" in Florence, truths rooted in his involvement with Judaic texts as well as Kabbalistic training, Michelangelo needed to find a way to let viewers discern what he truly believed. What the Church would not permit him to openly communicate; he ingeniously found a way to convey to those diligent enough to learn his secret language. He embedded messages of brotherhood, tolerance, and freethinking to encourage "fellow travelers" to challenge the repressive Roman Catholic Church of the time--all hidden in plain view in one of the Vatican's most sacred sites.

THE SISTINE SECRETS reveals some of the chapel ceiling's many hidden messages. For example:

* Pope Julius commissioned Michelangelo to paint a series of portraits of Jesus and the Apostles on the Sistine ceiling; in fact, it is Old Testament heroes and heroines who play starring roles on the ceiling.

* In the Original Sin panel, Michelangelo painted the Forbidden Tree of knowledge not as an apple tree, but rather as a fig tree, as written in the Talmud.

* Over the altar where Mary was supposed to be, he placed the Jewish prophet Jonah, whose hands and legs form two Hebrew letters, sending a message of religious tolerance to all those being oppressed.

* In the Creation of Adam panel, Michelangelo paints a perfect cross section of the human brain, combining messages from his forbidden anatomy studies with lessons from the Talmud and the Kabbalah, books that were burned by the Inquisition.

Author Biographies
Rabbi Benjamin Blech is a professor of Talmud at Yeshiva University and an internationally known educator and religious leader. Roy Doliner is a highly respected Vatican Docent with a dual specialty in the Renaissance in Rome and Jewish history in Italy.Contact: Diane Mancher or 212-353-3478


The organizations and/or individuals who submit materials for distribution by Religion News Service are solely responsible for the facts in and accuracy of their materials. Religion News Service will correct any errors brought to its attention.

Sign In

Forgot Password?

You also can sign in with Facebook or Twitter if you've connected your account to them.

Sign In Using Facebook

Sign In Using Twitter