From Mecca to the Vatican, exploring sacred sites with virtual reality

A scanned and digitally re-created 3D model of a mosaic depicting Christ's body being prepared after his death, set behind the Stone of Anointing, in The Holy City, a virtual reality experience in the metaverse is pictured on Oct. 24, 2018. (The Holy City VR via AP)

Click and gape at the Vatican's Sistine Chapel ceiling up close. Click again and join thousands of pilgrims praying and circling around the cube-shaped Kaaba at Islam's most sacred site. Or strap on a headset and enter the holy city of Jerusalem.

There you'll hear the murmur of Jewish prayers at the Western Wall or thousands of worshippers saying amen in unison at the Al-Aqsa Mosque. You can even light a virtual candle at the site where Christians believe Jesus rose from the grave.

All without ever leaving home.

Worshippers, tourists and visitors from around the world are increasingly joining virtual reality religious activities and pilgrimages to some of Earth's most sacred sites. Such experiences are among the many evolving spaces in the metaverse, an immersive virtual world where people can connect via avatars, that have grown in popularity during the pandemic.