Katie Hasty | July 19, 2017
On Dec. 8, 2015, the basilica in the Vatican was baptized in blue water. Images of endangered animals climbed the columns and domes of the magnificent Italian church, and giant illuminated butterflies clung to its walls. Fifty projectors lit up the white stone of the Roman Catholic mecca with rare marine life swimming to the facade’s perimeters while the echoes of wild birds played on loudspeakers. Many visitors cried in the middle of St. Peter’s Square, perhaps at the wordless beauty or at the dwindling stock of nature’s bounty portrayed in the installation, titled Fiat Lux. Nearly 225,000 people saw the display in person, with many thousands more via online.
“The pope’s number two told us that the last artist to do any [artwork] on the Vatican was Michelangelo,” said Louie Psihoyos, the Academy Award–winning director who curated the installation. He later integrated footage from Fiat Lux into his 2015 documentary Racing Extinction, which explains how human action has led to the mass extinction of many species.
Before the installation made its debut at the Vatican, Pope Francis had released a strongly worded encyclical for Catholics to help save the planet. “Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home,” he wrote in May 2015. “I urgently appeal, then, for a new dialogue about how we are shaping the future of our planet. … Regrettably, many efforts to seek concrete solutions to the environmental crisis have proved ineffective, not only because of powerful opposition but also because of a more general lack of interest. … We require a new and universal solidarity.” Read More