The project will put "renowned masterpieces from the Vatican's collection" on the blockchain. (edit Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

In what may come as exciting news for all the crypto evangelists out there, the Vatican in Rome has announced plans to launch a series of NFTs (non-fungible tokens) later this year. The project will put “renowned masterpieces from the Vatican’s collection” on the blockchain and feature virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) components to view the works through a partnership between Sensorium, an entertainment VR company, and a Vatican-affiliated nonprofit called Humanity 2.0.

“The public-private partnership aims to extend the availability of the Vatican’s heritage — manuscripts, masterpieces, and academic initiatives — to people who otherwise won’t be able to experience it,” reads a press release on Sensorium’s website.

The Vatican receives over six million visitors a year. In addition to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling, the museum houses Caravaggio’s “Deposition” (c. 1600-1604) and Rafael’s “School of Athens” (1508-1511). Among many other Italian Renaissance works, the museum also holds ancient artifacts and paintings by modern artists such as Vincent Van Gogh and Salvador Dalí.

Sensorium has traditionally focused on creating VR experiences for musicians — specifically DJs like David Guetta and Steve Aoki. The company is headed by Russian-Israeli billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, a previous owner of the Mets who has somehow evaded sanctions despite his connections to disgraced oligarch Vladimir Potanin.

The consulting-adjacent Vatican nonprofit Humanity 2.0 sets out to “identify impediments to human flourishing” and “work collaboratively across sectors to remove them,” according to the organization’s mission statement. Humanity 2.0 is headed by Father Philip Larrey, the dean of philosophy at the Pontifical Lateran University in the Vatican, and its advisory board comprises business and nonprofit sector leaders.

A bizarre list of use cases on Humanity 2.0’s website details the application of the organization’s “Human Flourishing Framework” to a wide range of issues — from identifying causes of depression in millennials to figuring out the right conditions for humans to survive during “prolonged space travel or planetary colonization.”

“We look forward to working with Sensorium to explore ways to democratize art, making it more widely available to people around the world regardless of their socio-economic and geographical limitations,” said Chairman of Humanity 2.0 Father Philip Larrey in the press release.

It is unclear how much the NFTs will cost and how the AR and VR experiences will be priced. Sensorium and Humanity 2.0 did not respond to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.

The Vatican is not the first museum to launch NFTs. The Austrian Belvedere Museum in Vienna, for example, released an NFT collection of Gustav Klimt’s “The Kiss” (1907-1908). Earlier this week, Hyperallergic reported on the United Kingdom’s landmark legal decision to define NFTs as property, an important ruling for those who’ve had their NFTs stolen.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.