The madonnelle (street shrines) of Rome are vernacular expressions of religious devotion traced to the thirteenth century. Recent interventions, intended to restore the shrines as important cultural artifacts, inadvertently risk displacing their devotional communities. This demonstration presents an ongoing research project on the perception of a virtual replica of the Grottapinta, in the increasingly touristic zone of the Campo de’ Fiori that was recently “restored” by the Capella Orsini Lab (in an adjoining deconsecrated church). The virtual Grottapinta allows us to assess user interactions with an informal, vernacular “sacred space,” testing fundamental questions concerning learned versus anthropological responses to such spaces, and how restoration shapes viewers’ responses.
The shrine was recreated virtually by using photogrammetry (Agisoft). It was subsequently imported into Unity and optimized for user studies in virtual reality employing HTC Vive headset. The demonstration will be through videos taken during the testing and will describe the modeling process and technical challenges of recreating the experience of the Grottapinta itself, based on the initial user studies and surveys. We will conclude with a discussion of very early results and implications for similar communities and devotional sites throughout New York.