MONTREAL -- The beauty and grandeur of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel ceiling are about to go on display in Montreal -- without the long lines and hordes of gawking tourists.

Beginning on Friday, visitors to a gallery at Montreal's Palais des congres convention centre will be able to see the world premiere of an exhibit that recreates the Renaissance-era masterpiece.

Thirty-three life-size photographs of the chapel ceiling's frescoes are hung along the gallery's walls as well as suspended overhead, recreating the feel of the rectangular-domed building in the Pope's official residence in Vatican City.

The frescoes on the Sistine Chapel's ceiling are 21 metres high and difficult to appreciate from the ground.

Martin Biallas, CEO of California-based Special Entertainment Events, which has brought the exhibit to Montreal, says he came up with the idea of recreating the ceiling during a trip to Italy two years ago.

"When I saw the lines (to get into the chapel), you know, all the aggravation just to see this, I said: 'Let me bring this closer to the people,"' he said Tuesday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

The exhibit will be in Montreal for three months and is tentatively scheduled to visit Toronto and Vancouver, although no dates have been set, before heading to the United States.

Biallis's company bought the rights to photographs of the chapel taken 20 years ago during the artworks's restoration.

He says the photos are identical in size -- "to the inch" -- to the real thing.

Now that Italian authorities are limiting access to the Sistine Chapel in order to preserve it, people have more reason to skip the long lines in Italy and see the wonder up close in North America, Biallas added.

Up to 20,000 people a day -- sometimes 2,000 at a time -- crowd into the Italian chapel to stare at Michelangelo's early-16th century brush strokes of the second coming of Christ.

Enrico Padula, Italy's consul general in Montreal, was on hand Tuesday and said he hopes the photos will inspire people to make the trip to his country.

The photos are nice, he said, "but I encourage everyone to see the real thing."