Read an Excerpt: 'The Sistine Secrets'

In a fascinating new book, Vatican tour guide Roy Doliner and Rabbi Benjamin Blech make the case that Michelangelo embedded coded messages in the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel.

In "The Sistine Secrets: Michelangelo's Forbidden Messages in the Heart of the Vatican," the authors say these hidden messages encourage a bridge between science and religion and between Jews and Christians.

Doliner and Blech say that Michelangelo intended the subversive work to challenge the strictures of the Roman Catholic Church and the pope.

Read excerpts from "The Sistine Secrets" below.

FOREWORD
written by Enrico Bruschini, Official Art Historian of the U.S. Embassy in Rome

Conoscersi è il miglior modo per capirsi -- capirsi è il solo modo per amarsi.
(To know each other is the best way to understand each other -- to understand each other is the only way to love each other.)

This wise and ancient maxim spoke directly to my heart as soon as I began to read this most fascinating book by Rabbi Benjamin Blech and Roy Doliner.

This adage is a valuable observation not only for relationships between human beings; it speaks perhaps even more profoundly with reference to interactions between religions as well as to dealings among nations.

In order to truly know each other, it is indispensable to know how to listen to each other, and above all to want to listen to each other. It seems to me that one of the important achievements of this groundbreaking book, among many others, is that it powerfully and clearly fulfills this mission. It pierces through the veil of countless puzzlements and hypotheses that, along with indisputable admiration, have always accompanied any visit to the Sistine Chapel. By filling in blanks resulting from a lack of understanding of teachings foreign to Christianity -- but well known to Michelangelo -- the Sistine Chapel can now speak to us in a way it has never been understood before.

We have always known that Pope Sixtus IV wanted the Sistine Chapel to have the same dimensions as the Temple of Solomon, just as they were recorded by the prophet Samuel in the Bible in the book of Kings I (6:2). In the past, art and religion experts explained that this was purposely done to demonstrate that there is no contradiction between the Old and New Testaments, between the Bible and the Gospels, between the Jewish and the Christian religions.

Only now, through reading this remarkable book, have I learned-with wonder, as an art historian, and with a certain embarrassment and sorrow as a Catholic -- that this construction was considered a religious offense by the Jews. The Talmud, the collection and explication of the rabbinic traditions, clearly legislated that no one could build a "functioning" copy of the Holy Temple of Solomon in any location other than the holy Temple Mount in Jerusalem.

It is well to remember that this took place six centuries ago. In more recent times, many outdated insensitivities have thankfully been replaced with understanding and mutual respect. In this light, Pope John Paul II visited the Great Synagogue of Rome on April 13, 1986, and during that historic event the pontiff turned to the Jewish people, calling them for the first time, with respect and love, "our elder brothers and sisters!"

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