Inside the Vatican
Inside the Vatican (Jasmine Multimedia) invites you on an historical tour of the Catholic church from its beginnings to the present. Guided by the urbane and witty Sir Peter Ustinov, the two-disc set is based on a PBS series produced in cooperation with The Vatican. The bulk of the program, six “Episodes,” is mainly video. Sir Peter narrates, and exchanges dialogue with actors portraying famous figures like Pope Gregory and Savonarola. Should you prefer to skip the dramatizations (why would you?), you can read a script which has hyperlinks to sections of an Encyclopedia (an abridged edition of the Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church). In addition to the Episodes, there are sections on Art, Music, and Archives. Under Art there are examples of important frescos, paintings and sculpture from five religious centers (Assisi, Avignon, The Vatican, Florence, and Hagia Sophia). The slides are not full screen; there’s no zoom feature, and very little supporting data. For instance, under Avignon you’ll find a number of works, but no labels to identify where specifically they’re from (i.e., church, museum, etc.), often no date, and if there is any additional information, it’s not very informative (the description of Fra Angelico’s Adoration of the Maji: “The three kings from the Orient present their gifts to the baby Jesus.”). The Music section features 13 hymns, quite beautifully performed, but you can only access them in the Music screen; there’s no way to hear them while you view the slides or browse through the Encyclopedia. The Encyclopedia itself is well-written and chock full of entries, but it’s limited by the lack of a search function. The Archive section, with documents and art rarely accessible to the public, provides a tantalizing peek into The Vatican Library, but it’s only a peek. What a missed opportunity. As is too often the case with CD-ROMs, translating what may have been an inspired television series to this medium requires something more than simply porting it over.
– April 1996