The Sistine Chapel is Italy’s most treasured landmark. Lying in the heart of Vatican City, it brings millions of travelers to its doors every year. It has become one of the most visited landmarks in all of Europe. But what makes the Sistine Chapel so important?
When visitors tour the Sistine Chapel, the frescoes that fully cover the walls and ceiling capture their attention. The Pope’s chapel is the venue of the most important papal events. Like when a vacancy occurs or when the Sacred College of Cardinals needs to elect a new pope.
In the meantime, visitors worldwide flock to the church when official papal activities or events are not held.
Let’s take a look at why the Sistine Chapel is still intriguing and a popular tourist attraction today:
The Remarkable History of the Sistine Chapel
Todays Sistine Chapel is established on the foundations of a much earlier chapel – the Cappella Magna. Pope Sixtus IV commissioned it in the 1470s, which is how the Sistine Chapel got its name. You pronounce it ‘Sisto’ in Italian.
Several artists contributed to the indoor paintings. Including Cosimo Roselli, Sandro Botticelli, Pinturicchio, Pietro Perugino, and Domenico Ghirlandaio. At the time, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was a simple blue sky with a few stars sprinkled over it. Michelangelo ultimately painted over the canvas, leaving us with one of the most famous works of art in history.
The ceiling was commissioned to be renovated in 1508 by Pope Julius II. Renovation finished in 1512. The Pope directed the famed artist, Michelangelo, to rebuild the ceiling in great detail. However, this was not established without the Pope’s approval.
Michelangelo, who was at the peak of his popularity at the time, could accept or refuse any task that came his way. He initially left the Sistine Chapel because he considered himself a sculptor first and a painter second.
So, Pope Sixtus IV awarded him a contract for 40 tomb sculptures, which prompted Michelangelo to consent and start work on the ceiling. The painting took four years to finish and is today one of Michelangelo’s most famous masterpieces, albeit at a cost to his eyesight.
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The Breathtaking Design of the Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo requested his painter peers to train him before starting the ceiling painting, only rejecting their style and establishing his own. Michelangelo deviated from the topic his commissioner intended for him. However, the Pope trusted him and allowed him to do as he liked.
It’s no wonder that the initial design for the ceiling was rejected. The original design depicts the twelve apostles. Believing that the twelve apostles weren’t grand enough, Michelangelo created his design.
He then created a massive picture with 300 figures depicting Man’s tenure on Earth before Jesus Christ. Each piece represents a distinct part of a broader narrative. For example, the ceiling shows nine pictures portraying the Creation, Fall of Humanity, and Noah’s Story.
Many believe Michelangelo painted the ceiling on his back, although he never did. His innovative scaffolding structure could carry enough employees and supplies and reach the ceiling.
The scaffolding mimicked the ceiling’s curvature. Due to the design, Michelangelo had to bend backward and paint over his head. This has caused severe eye and neck damage but has provided more value to his work.
Reasons for the masterpiece creation were both genius and sacrifice of the artist. Causing countless people to continue enjoying his work to this day.
Aside from the iconic work of Michaelangelo that defines every Sistine Chapel experience, you’ll also find other paintings on the historic site. For instance, frescoes depicting The Last Judgment completely cover the Sistine Chapel’s altar wall. Michaelangelo finished the piece when he was 70 years old. Twenty-five years after completing the iconic ceiling.
All these masterpieces are Italy’s prized possessions. And some of the most recognizable paintings throughout the world. Because of its epic history and exquisite artwork, this chapel has become one of Europe’s most important landmarks. The chapel’s history and religion reflect Italy’s rich culture and art that has influenced artists from then until now.
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