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LATERAN-TOUR Nov-10-2009 (340 words) With photo. xxxi

Vatican unveils Villanova's virtual tour of St. John Lateran

By Cindy Wooden
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican Web site celebrated the feast of the dedication of the Basilica of St. John Lateran by launching a virtual tour of the Rome church -- thanks to Villanova University in Pennsylvania.

The virtual tour -- giving cybernauts a high-resolution, 360-degree view of the basilica -- went online at www.vatican.va Nov. 9, the feast of the dedication of the basilica, which is the cathedral of the Diocese of Rome.

Bryan Crable, chairman of the communication department at the Catholic university in Villanova, Pa., said the virtual tour of St. John's -- and earlier tours of St. Peter's Basilica and the Basilica of St. Paul Outside the Walls -- was the brainchild of Paul Wilson, a professor in the department.

"Although he proposed this idea two years ago, it took some time for it to become approved and for us to assemble the equipment necessary to carry out the project," Crable said in an e-mail to Catholic News Service.

The equipment included digital cameras, computers, "cutting-edge software" and a very expensive "motorized rig, which can precisely regulate the movements of a camera" so that the more than 300 flat photographs overlap and can be edited into a video, Crable said.

Villanova students have been serving as interns in the Vatican Internet office since 2003 and more recently in the Pontifical Council for Social Communications. The Villanova virtual reality tours for the Vatican build on those hands-on relationships, he said.

Villanova professors and students began photographing the basilicas of St. John Lateran and St. Mary Major in February and returned in October to shoot more photos of St. John's before the final editing was completed.

In addition to finishing up the virtual tour of St. Mary Major, the Villanova crew also is working on a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel, the newly restored Pauline Chapel in the Apostolic Palace and the newly discovered Necropolis of St. Rosa, he said.


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