On Friday, for just a second, the scene on the steps of Saint Benedict's Monastery Sacred Heart Chapel in St. Joseph, Minn., resembled one depicted on a wall in the Vatican.

Professors and students posed in sheets and costumes, cocking their heads and holding their hips to resemble those gathered in the famed "School of Athens" fresco.

Cameras clicked. Shoulders relaxed. The group clapped.

The idea -- to create a "tableau vivant," or "living picture" -- came from longtime professor Tony Cunningham. His wife is a painter and art historian, and hosting a party a few years back, they convinced their guests to pose like those in the painting "Oath of the Horatii." The backdrop? Their basement.

On a trip to Italy last summer, Cunningham encountered the "School of Athens," and its colors and size "struck me in a way that had never struck me before." It inspired him to take the living picture idea a step further. Or two.

He began by sending emails to bearded men. "I tried to think, in my mind's eye, 'Who are the guys I know on the faculty and staff who have facial hair?'" He asked the president of St. Ben's, MaryAnn Baenninger, to play the role of Hypatia. He began collecting sheets and buying fabric.

"We didn't have a Paramount Pictures kind of budget," he joked. "We had to improvise and make do."

Alexander the Great's costume was the most complicated. After some gold paint and a bit of sawing, a baseball batting helmet and a borrowed catcher's chest protector "from afar, looked pretty darn good."

Peek the preparations and final result: