Sistine Chapel

Sistine chapel is one of the most famous and beautiful halls in the world. According to variety of sources and critics Sistine chapel stands as an unsurpassed masterpiece in fine art of all time and it’s all thanks to Michelangelo.

Guided tours visiting Sistine Chapel

About Sistine Chapel

It was built in period of 1475 to 1483 as a proper rectangular hall covered with a barrel vault. Initial painting of the space was done according to the iconographic program of the Pope Sixtus IV. Scenes from the Old Testament and lives of Moses and Christ were painted by the greatest artist of the time: Botticelli, Pietro di Cosimo, Perugino and many others. Pope Julius II ordered painting of Sistine Chapel in 1508 from Michelangelo. He finished painting in 1512 and 23 years after that he started painting the scene of the Doom.

In order to decorate the vault, Michelangelo took the legends of the beginning of the world showcasing them on 9 frescos. The frescos were put in chronological order from the wall behind the main altar to the wall on the main exit, with these topics: Separating light from the darkness, Creating of the sun and the moon, Creating the trees and plants, Creation of Adam, Creation of Eve, The original sin, Noah’s sacrifice, The Great Flood, Noah’s drunkenness.

Two of the most important pieces of art in Sistine Chapel and unsurpassable masterpieces are Michelangelo’s frescos - Creation of Adam and The Doom.

As we already mentioned, Creation of Adam is placed on the ceiling, it’s the central image showing God - The Father using the tip of his forefinger touching Adam’s forefinger and from the spark of this touch human form created in clay came to life.

The Doom is placed on the entire wall behind the altar, it’s 20 meters high and 10 meters wide. Key figure in the complex scene is the young Christ coming back in glory to judge alive as well as the dead ones, while the Holy Mother next to him shows compassion. Among interesting details is the Michelangelo’s caricature done in the flayed skin of St. Bartholomeus. Biagio da Cesena, the papal master of ceremonies, who harshly critiqued the piece was shown as Minos, judge in the lowest kingdom of hell, wrapped with snake.

Interesting facts about Sistine Chapel

  • Each day chapel is visited by around 10 to 15 thousands of people, about 5 million per year.
  • Entering the Museum of Vatican and Sistine Chapel costs around £11.60, bringing Vatican total yearly income of £58 million.
  • Sistine chapel was used (and still is) as the pope’s private chapel.
  • Iustius wanted 12 apostoles to be shown on frescos in the chapel but Michelangelo refused to do so, describing it as a ‘miserable move’.
  • Before Michelangelo started working on it, ceiling was painted in the night sky motif.
  • Michelangelo’s display of God, in form of a large human figure with long white hair and beard, is the first of its kind. On the majority of earlier works, God is usually displayed in the form of a hand coming down from the sky.
  • Contrary to the legend, Michelangelo didn’t paint while laying on his back but he was standing on the installation he came up with allowing him to stay straight.
  • Frescos in the chapel cover about 1.110 square meters which is the one sixth of the football stadium size.
  • In 1536, consul in Trento asked to make decent the prominent acts on the frescoes. For this job, they hired artist Daniele da Volterra who was supposed to add underwear to such acts, which brought him ridicule from his colleagues who called him ‘Il Braghettone’ - the big pants.
  • New pope election was held in chapel for the first time in 1482 and since 1870 it’s the only place elections are held.

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Photos of Sistine Chapel