Computer Science Professor Frank Klassner, PhD, and three Villanova students are currently organizing a weeklong trip to the Pope’s summer home later this year. They plan to capture thousands of images to create a seamless interactive tour that allows visitors to roam the gardens and rooms of the 17th-century Papal Palace online.

“It will be a much larger scale than what we’ve done before because it will take you inside of the Castel Gandolfo palace and also outside on its garden grounds,” says Dr. Klassner, director of Villanova’s Center of Excellence in Enterprise Technology.

It will be the ninth project to come out of an exclusive decade-long internship program between Villanova’s Computer Science Department and the Vatican Museum. Dr. Klassner has served as the project lead for a total of eight virtual reality tours created for the Vatican’s website, including the Sistine Chapel, the Basilica of St. Peter and, most recently, the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, a space reserved exclusively for the Pope.

Completed in December, the Redemptoris Mater tour was three years in the making. Dr. Klassner and two student interns—Zachary Rahn ’16 CLAS and Albert Hermida ’18 CLAS—captured 800 photographs of the space and painstakingly stitched together 200 to 300 of those images to create an interactive virtual tour. Using historical resources from the Vatican Museum, the tour also provides the historical background and significance behind the chapel’s stunning architectural detail and imagery.

“I’m happy to be contributing our expertise in this area to support the Vatican’s outreach efforts online,” Dr. Klassner says. “Many don’t realize it, but the Church has a tradition of employing the newest technologies to reach people across the world for nearly a century—going back to Guglielmo Marconi’s first radio broadcast with Pope Pius XI in 1931.”

Digging Deep

Last year, Frank Klassner, PhD, and Computer Science students from Villanova ventured deep into the earth to create a virtual tour of a live archeological site beneath the Vatican. An ancient Roman burial ground, the Necropolis of the Via Triumphalis houses more than 1,000 tombs and graves dating from the 1st century BC through AD 320.

Headshot of Villanova Computer Science Professor Frank Klassner, PhD

I’m happy to be contributing our expertise in this area to support the Vatican’s outreach efforts online.”

Frank Klassner, PhD