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The Sistine Chapel (The Paintings of Michelangelo)

Sistine Chapel - from 'Guide to the Vatican Museums and City'

Image is from the Guide to the Vatican Museums and City - (To learn more, you should purchase a copy of this guide printed by the Vatican Press.  It is a treasure in itself.)


     The Sistine Chapel is a building standing at the southwest corner of the old medieval section of the Apostolic Palace.  It takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere, who had it built between 1477 and 1480.  At present the entrance to the Sistine Chapel is through a small door behind the altar.  You can see it in the photo on the right.  The door is in the back of the room on the right.

     The chapel is still used for some papal functions and for the conclave, which originally assembled in the nearby Chapel of the Holy Sacrament.

     Unfortunately, no photos could be taken in the Sistine Chapel, so I have scanned the picture on the right from The Guide to the Vatican Museums and City.  It is a great guide, I would recommend that you purchase a copy first thing when you arrive at the Vatican Museums and refer to it as you make your way through the exhibits.

    In addition to the "no pictures" policy there is also a strict rule of silence in the Chapel.  However, I found it ironic that to squelch the murmurs of the 500 visitors they blasted a message over a P.A. in four different languages requesting complete silence.  There is also a person there to say "SSSSHHHHhhhhhhhh!!!"  every 30 seconds or so.  But the artwork was (is) spectacular!

     Some of the frescoes that you will see on the south wall include: Events from the Life of Moses such as the Crossing of the Red Sea. On the North wall you will find the Baptism of Christ and  the Temptations of Christ among the many works.

Before and After of Fresco restorations from ' the Guide to the Vatican Museums and City' - 16k

     Michelangelo decided to use the ceiling to represent the history of mankind before the coming of Christ. Nine panels depict events from Genesis.  The corner spandrels contain the miraculous Salvations of Israel.

     Behind the altar is The Last Judgment.  This is said to be the masterpiece of Michelangelo's maturity.  He was in his sixties when he began the painting, which took 450 days to complete. 

    Between 1981 and 1993 a project was undertaken to  restore the frescoes of Michelangelo.  The results are astounding.  On the left you can see a before and after comparison.  The brilliant colors have survived under the layers of grime.

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Credit for the Information in this tour:

Papafava, Francesco. Ed. Guide to the Vatican Museums and City. Vatican City: Tipografia Vaticana., 1986

Also, I have included information from the exhibits at the Vatican Museum and notes from the lecture of Professor B. Nucci (University of Maryland University College - European Division)