They entered the Sistine Chapel in tuxedos and gowns, the clicking of high heels on marble competing with the Latin chants of a choir filling the frescoed hall, reports AP in The Australian.
The donors to the Vatican Museums got serious VIP treatment during their recent visit to Rome: lectures on restoration projects, catered dinners in museum galleries, a Vespers service in the Sistine Chapel celebrated by Papal Prefect, Archbishop Georg Gaenswein, and even a one-on-one with Pope Francis himself.
Such access comes with a price, but it's not as high as you might think. All it takes is $520 a year to join the Patrons of the Vatican Museums, the fundraising organisation which hosted this month's visit.
The events marking the Patrons' 30th anniversary did cost significantly more - $US1900 a head for the entire five days of Vatican pampering - but even that price seems a relative bargain given that a single New York fundraiser, without pope or music under Michelangelo, might run to $US1000 a head or more.
'Are you kidding? You can't buy your way into this,' said Ronald Poe as he sipped pink bubbly in the Gallery of Maps after the Sistine Chapel vespers last Saturday night.
In fact, you can. There are 2500 patrons and each year the Vatican can count on getting $US5 million from them. Their generosity has funded, among other things, the restoration of the Sistine Chapel and three of the four Raphael Rooms in the Apostolic Palace, a point raised by Pope Francis when he greeted each of the 350-plus patrons and family members who gathered in the palace for a private audience.
Each year, the Vatican Museums offers up a wishlist of the works that need attention in hopes of finding a local chapter or individual patron to adopt the project.
FULL STORY Donors stump for Vatican museum special