Jason Momoa as Adam in Michelangelo's fresco (edit Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Actor Jason Momoa, best known for his roles as Khal Drogo in Game of Thrones (2011-19) and the lead in Aquaman (2018), caused a stir after he posted photos of himself and his family at the Sistine Chapel on Instagram last week. The chapel in the Apostolic Palace in Rome, where Momoa was filming a new Fast and Furious movie, has a strict no-photos policy, and Momoa shared an apology video after fans wrote angry comments.

In the video, Momoa — who is seen lifting weights to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song — says he had always wanted to see the Sistine Chapel and paid to have a “private moment,” making a “wonderful donation” to bring his friends and film crew there.

“I would never want to do anything to disrespect someone’s culture,” Momoa said in the video, apologizing profusely and adding that he asked for permission and thought it was okay.

Jason Momoa posted photos inside the Sistine Chapel on his Instagram. (screenshot Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

But many of Momoa’s followers on social media disagreed. “So wait … pics in here are prohibited yet somehow although I love you you can have the room cleared out just for you and take group pics,” user @rebeccacharles00 commented on Momoa’s original post. “I mean just wow the privilege in famous folks. Just wow. Goes to show what BS places like this are with their silly rules. They’re apparently flexible.”

The Vatican Museum receives over six million visitors a year, and before the COVID-19 pandemic, a single summer day could bring in over 30,000 visitors. Getting the Sistine Chapel to yourself is nearly impossible, but some luxury tours offer private viewings — one charges over $5,000 per person. Another offers visitors the opportunity to arrive at 6am and accompany the “keymaster” in opening the chapel’s doors for the day, stealing a few quiet moments with Michelangelo’s masterpiece before the crowds make their way through the Vatican and into the chapel. That tour costs over $350. In 2014, the Vatican rented out the space to Porsche for a private event for the first time in the church’s history.

The Vatican’s website states that “in the Sistine Chapel it is forbidden to take photographs or films with any type of electronic equipment,” and guards on staff are “authorized to request the immediate cancellation, in their presence, of video or photographic material produced in contravention of this rule.” Perhaps they did not want to unleash the Dothraki khal’s wrath — an understandable fear for anyone who’s seen this episode.

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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.

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