Samuel J Butcher was so inspired by Michaelangelo's Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Rome, that he was inspired to create his own über-saccharine version, which he planned to fill with the doe-eyed children popularized by his Precious Moments artwork. In 1984, Sam settled in Carthage, Missouri and got to work building a chapel chock full of Precious Moments-themed murals, stained glass windows and angels. In 1989, his work was complete, and “Americas Sistine Chapel” opened to the public, and remains open to this day.
Not surprisingly, Sam didn't recreate the dark centerpiece of the Sistine Chapel – The Last Judgement. Instead, he substituted in a scene depicting “heaven through the eyes of a child,” which he calls "Hallelujah Square." This pastel wonderland, filled with renditions of awestruck children, was not a fitting place to include a hidden self-portrait of himself like Michaelangelo did—on the face of a skinned St. Bartholomew. Instead, Butcher included joyful portraits of family and friends who he had lost.
–This story was originally published on April 17, 2010. Minor updates have been made.