Lithuania welcomes Pope Francis
With only 24 hours to go until the arrival of Pope Francis, Lithuania’s capital city is hoping to re-ignite enthusiasm for its religious heritage by bringing one of its most sacred treasures into the digital age with their exciting new virtual reality project - a 3D version of the Shrine of Divine Mercy. The model will be a complete reflection of reality, including the world-famous image of Divine Mercy that will allow believers from all over the world to get as close access to the sacred painting as possible. Different versions of the painting can be found in Catholic churches throughout the world, although few know it originated in Vilnius. Archbishop Pedro López Quintana, the Apostolic Nuncio to Lithuania, and Archbishop Gintaras Grušas, the Archbishop of Vilnius, have already taken part in demonstrations.
Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the world walk the cobbled streets of Vilnius to catch a glimpse of the image of Divine Mercy. Now the painting and the entire shrine will be available for anyone to see via website: www.divinemercy3d.com
A city of contrasts, Vilnius is famous not only for its tapestry of churches and rich religious history but also for its embracing of the 21st century world in becoming a hi-tech pioneer of the digital age. These contrasting sides have come together in the creation of a virtual replica of the Church of Divine Mercy, allowing anyone and everyone to have a thorough look at the world-famous painting that hangs within its wall.
The city has officially unveiled the 3D model on the occasion of the Pope’s visit and is inviting tourists from around the world to join him in taking a virtual look at one of the world’s most important Catholic icons.
Vilnius’ Mayor, Remigijus Šimašius, said: “Religion has always played a big role in Vilnius. The image of Divine Mercy that originated here has had a huge impact on the Catholic world, its image replicated in churches all over the world. After being hidden for many years during Soviet occupation, the original painting now attracts thousands to the city each year. Now, with the help of technology, we hope to bring it to millions. It’s an example that shows religion and technology can co-exist, and also perfectly represents how Vilnius is moving into the future with creativity and ingenuity without forgetting about our past.”
Painted in 1934 under direction from Saint Faustina, the image of Divine Mercy is based on the apparitions that were visited upon her by Jesus Christ and has become a worldwide symbol of God’s Mercy with copies hanging in most Catholic churches across the world.
Faustina Kowalska lived in the Convent of the Congregation of Our Lady of Mercy in Vilnius from 1933 to 1936 and it was here that she experienced visions of Jesus in which he asked her to carry the message of God’s mercy to the entire world. With help from Father Michael Sopoćko, Faustina described what she had seen to local artist Eugene Kazimirowski, who attempted to accurately reproduce this amazing vision. Saint Faustina’s diary, where she describes some of her conversations with Jesus that led to the painting, is a very well known book among Catholics.
Canonised by Pope John Paul II in 2000, St Faustina’s legacy continues to resonate. Over 30,000 pilgrims visit Vilnius every year, each wanting to catch a glimpse of the image of Divine Mercy and ask for its blessing. Instantly recognisable, the painting is permanently housed at the Shrine of Divine Mercy where pilgrims are always welcome and where the Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament takes place 24 hours a day.
The project has been the initiative of Go Vilnius (the city’s tourism and business development agency) and carried out by LinkMenų fabrikas, the innovation and creativity centre of the Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU). After successfully carrying out similar projects, including transferring an entire church into virtual reality, or, gifting a nano-sized nativity scene to the Pope for Christmas, the VGTU LinkMenų fabrikas team used cutting-edge technology to meticulously scan every millimetre of the painting and all its surroundings in order to create a virtual environment that mirrors the shrine in every way.
“Each century has its own way of portraying it. In 1934 in Vilnius, the image of Jesus as seen in a vision by a nun was painted on a canvas. The 21st century provides us with new technological possibilities, such as virtual reality, 3D scanning and modelling, which we used in this project”, said LinkMenų fabrikas Creative Project Manager Eglė Girdzijauskaitė.
The image of Divine Mercy is a painting that all faithful should get the chance to see, and for those that are unable to undertake a pilgrimage and witness it in all its glory in Vilnius, they can now join the Pope and appreciate the 3D model.
The 3D format of the Shrine of Divine Mercy is available for the whole world to see under www.divinemercy3d.com.