A visit to “America’s Sistine Chapel”

First things first: I hereby solemnly swear that this blog will be devoted to more than just  tacky roadside attractions. In the coming months, I will gaze on this country’s most beautiful natural wonders, sample the finest local delicacies, and plumb the depths of our collective soul to ask: Just what is it that makes Americans American?

Before I get to that, however, let’s take a journey together to Carthage, MO, to the Precious Moments Chapel, aka “America’s Sistine Chapel.”

This sign is an exact replica of a 15th-century sign that stands outside the Sistine Chapel.

This sign is an exact replica of a 15th-century sign that stands outside the Sistine Chapel.


You know Precious Moments:

Precious Moments are babies that do grown-up things, like have anniversaries.

Precious Moments are innocent babies that do grown-up things like celebrate anniversaries.

The Precious Moments Chapel was built 20 years ago by the company’s founder and artist Sam Butcher. To quote from its website, “Sam used his beautiful and innocent Precious Moments messengers to bring well known and loved stories from the Bible to life in dozens of murals.”

Drink it in. Drink it alllll in.

Drink it in. Drink it alllll in.

The art on one side depicts Old Testament stories like “Daniel in the Lion’s Den,” but the great thing is all the figures are Precious Moments babies! On the other side, you’ll see New Testament stories like the parable of the Good Samaritan, with one twist: Everyone’s a Precious Moments baby. The central mural, named “Hallelujah Square,” depicts Heaven itself, interpreted through Butcher’s vision in which everyone in the world — and the afterlife! — is a Precious Moments baby. 

In heaven, we'll all be babies.

In heaven, we'll all be babies.

When you look up to the ceiling: More babies!

When you look up to the ceiling: More babies!

The grounds of the chapel are also not to be missed.

Behold.

Behold.

And inside the welcome center, there’s even a nod to current events:

I'm getting a little uncomfortable, are you?

I'm getting a little uncomfortable, are you?

Ack. Let’s take a closer look at the plaque at the bottom, shall we?

Yeah, that's what I was afraid of.

Yeah, that's what I was afraid of.

Ouch.

Ok, so the Precious Moments Chapel isn’t all class. Still, I hope that you had a genuinely good time visiting America’s Sistine Chapel. I know I did. Seriously, I did! It’s deeply weird and deeply personal and you can tell it’s a place that makes people happy. So, kudos to Sam Butcher and his legion of weird moon-eyed babies.

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7 responses to “A visit to “America’s Sistine Chapel”

  1. Oh man, I really want to go here! I love to see well-known stories brought to life, especially by dolls/babies. Such as the dolls dressed up as movie characters at FAO Schwarz.

  2. I had no idea there was a museum devoted to Precious Moments. It brings me right back to my days working at John’s Christian Stores.

  3. But re: fireman baby holding a baby. How can a fireman baby hold a baby-baby? I mean, in the Precious Moments universe, how can a baby be a baby relative to everybody else, who are all already babies? Won’t that create a black hole or something?

  4. Maureen Mullarkey

    What fun, that Precious Moments Chapel! A great relief from phony art world kitsch. This is the real thing, for once. Great thanks, Ruth.

  5. Pingback: Forget Archie. Archie is dead to us now. « Public Road

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