Visiting a Roman basilica? There’s an app for that.

It would be nice to have some silence during visits to beautiful churches in Europe.

This comes from CNA:

Vatican hopes iPod can bring silence to Rome’s churches

Rome, Italy, Jun 24, 2011 / 06:10 am (CNA/EWTN News).- The Vatican has introduced a new way of keeping silence in their churches while also informing tourists – the iPod.

Today is the first full day of a trial which sees pilgrims to the basilica of St. John Lateran given the audio-guide with a special app explaining the 1,700-year history of the church, which serves as the Pope’s cathedral.

“I can easily say that in Italy there are no examples of experiences like this in religious contexts, probably not even those in museums,” Jelena Jovanovic said to CNA. Her company, Antenna International, created the handheld device.

The multi-lingual guide offers audio, video, photos and texts to give an interactive experience to pilgrims. It also provides historical re-enactments narrated by actors.

Tourists can now listen to the experience of their fellow pilgrims from centuries past or even a “first-hand” account of the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312, when the Emperor Constantine saw a cross in the sky and converted to Christianity.

But the primary purpose of the guide is not entertainment or even education – it’s prayer and silence.

Bishop Luca Brandolini, the head of Pastoral Care for the Diocese of Rome, explained to CNA that “Unfortunately, our basilicas have become more like noisy meeting places at many times.”

“We need to bring back a place and time for silence. So I think this audio-guide will help achieve that.”

The Managing Director of the Opera Romana Pellegrinaggi, the Vatican body that oversees all pilgrim activity in the Diocese of Rome, agrees.

“Those who want to enter into a basilica to pray must be able to pray. So this multimedia guide helps with that,” said Fr. Caesar Atuire.

“Everyone can now do what they have to do without disturbing others.”

There is no charge for the use of the guide, but pilgrims do have to leave a document, such as a passport, as security.

The Vatican will monitor the experiment at St. John Lateran until December. Then officials will decide whether or not to roll the scheme out to other basilicas and churches in the Diocese of Rome.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. jasoncpetty says:

    What a great idea. And as technology gets better, there will surely be a version of this ‘app’ that can work on other platforms, so any visitor with a mobile device can use their own.

    “Unfortunately, our basilicas have become more like noisy meeting places at many times.” And you should hear what it’s like after Mass, Excellency.

  2. Martial Artist says:

    My wife and I used similar devices in the UK during our 1999 visit there. They were, obviously, not iPods, but were in fact very helpful. One of the better features on the devices then in use was that each station had a “code number” posted nearby which could be entered via the keypad on the device, and the narration for what one was seeing thus corresponded to what one was viewing. Not having an iPod (being a fan of neither Apple nor Steve Jobs), I am unclear from the article if this device would be as user-friendly in allowing the user to move non-sequentially through the information.

    The ones in the UK were usually rented at the museum/site for a nominal sum (£1 or £2), and in some instances were available at no charge, IIRC.

    Pax et bonum,
    Keith Töpfer

  3. chironomo says:

    I thought devices like this were already rather common… I recall several museums I have visited that offer (for a small fee) a handheld device which was much like what Martial Artist described above, but here in the US. I even recall seeing one (in Boston I seem to remember) that used an IR scanner and barcode system at each display and would tell you about each exhibit when you “scanned” it….using headphones of course!

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