For the last three days I have been visiting the extraordinary city of Venice. I am not the most travelled person in the world, I’m not even the most travelled in my family, but I suspect there are few other cities that can challenge Venice for artistic and architectural beauty.
Although Venice has its fair share of art galleries and museums, it has to be admitted that most of the breath-taking works of art are in churches and cathedrals. Thousands, if not millions, of hours have been spent by the world’s most famous and talented artists depicting most of the events from Christ’s life and more than a few imaginative attempts have been made at what heaven and hell look like. It is hard to imagine that collectively there is a more stunning selection of Christianity based fine art anywhere in the world other than, perhaps, in Rome.
So armed with my new Panasonic Lumix compact camera (my first outing with it but I will review it another time), an iPad and an iPhone (both with very good digital cameras) I looked forward to returning home with a portfolio of photographs that I could flick through in my old age when travelling to such places will, sadly, be out of the question.
Nice idea but it’s not going to happen. Every church we went to had banned photography in all its forms. Not only were cameras banned but knowing that most, if not all, smartphones now had cameras built in they were banned too!
I do appreciate, although I’ve never read any scientific proof, that thousands of camera flashes a day may lead to the deterioration of an old painting but all modern cameras have the aliblity to turn off their flashes. Of course some visitors will not know how to do that and the odd flash may go off. They could be asked politely to desist taking pictures or to leave. I also realise that it would be totally unacceptable for photographs with or without flash to be taken during a service.
My iPad does not have a flash and it takes perfectly reasonably pictures in darkened conditions (see the photograph at the top of this entry taken with my iPad in a very poorly lit room within the Doge’s palace where there only ban flash photography). I don’t yet have an example of a ‘forced no flash’ shot taken with my Lumix but I expect it to be even better quality as, after all, it is a dedicated camera!
So, apparently the people who built these churches here in Venice, some of them many centuries ago, believed that one of the the ways to glorify God was to decorate His places of worship with beautiful paintings. They presumably thought this would please Him (whether that’s right or not is a debate for another blog entry!) Now we have reached the twenty-first century and there are ways of people sharing in that glory without being a worshipper at that church but by photographing the works of art therein. Does taking photographs in church not please God?