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Sistine Chapel. Vatican City. Rome
Rome

Thanks to the extraordinary talents of Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475-1564), the Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina) in Vatican City has become one of the most famous art galleries in the western world.

Michelangelo's famous Sistine ceiling depicts scenes from Genesis in dramatic and moving detail, while The Last Judgment on the end wall is striking and powerful. As if that were not enough, the side walls are covered with important Renaissance frescoes by other artists, depicting biblical scenes and contemporary popes.

But the Sistine Chapel is more than the sum of its artistic wonders: it is a symbolic statement of papal authority and the place in which papal elections in conclave are held to this day.

The Sistine Chapel was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV, from whom it derives its name, in 1475. It was designed to be - and still is - the pope's chapel and the site of papal elections. The Sistine Chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin on August 15, 1483.

In 1481 Sixtus IV called to Rome the Florentine painters Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Rosselli and the Perugian Pietro Perugino to decorate the walls with frescoes. Luca Signorelli may have also been involved in the decoration. The fresco project took only 11 months, from July 1481 to May 1482.

The Sistine ceiling was originally painted by Piero Matteo d'Amelia, who included a star-spangled sky. But in 1508 Pope Julius II della Rovere commissioned Michelangelo to repaint the ceiling.

Michelangelo was called away from his work on the pope's own tomb and was he not happy about the change. He had always insisted he was a sculptor and was contemptuous of fresco painting. The result are glorious depictions of human bodies that could only be created by a sculptor, and the project Michelangelo hated so much (at least at first) ironically became his most well-known work.

Michelangelo was asked to paint the Twelve Apostles and a few ornaments on the ceiling of the chapel. But as he began work on the project, Michelangelo conceived grander designs and ended up painting more than 300 figures.

He worked on the project between 1508 and October 31, 1512, in cramped conditions high on a scaffolding and under continous pressure from the pope to hurry up. The project would permanently damage the artist's eyesight.

Michelangelo was in his 60s when he was called back to the chapel, again against his wishes, to paint The Last Judgment (1535-1541) on the altar wall. The work was commissioned by Pope Clement VII (1523-1534) shortly before his death, and Clement's successor, Pope Paul III Farnese (1534-1549), forced Michelangelo to complete it quickly. It was the largest fresco of the century and is still an unquestioned masterpiece.

For important ceremonies, the lowest portions of the Sistine Chapel's side walls were covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and Acts. These were designed by Raphael and woven in 1515-19 at Brussels.

In recent decades, the Sistine Chapel has been carefully cleaned and restored, beginning with the 15th-century wall frescoes in 1965. The cleaning and restoration of the lunettes, the ceiling and the Last Judgment, a painstaking process using computer analysis, lasted from 1980 to 1994. The restoration included removing several of the "modesty" drapes that had been added over some of the nude figures.

The end result of the restoration has been controversial: Critics say a vital second layer of paint was removed, and argue that many of the restored figures seem flat compared with the originals, which had more shadow and detail. Others have hailed the project for saving Michelangelo's masterpiece for future generations to appreciate and for revealing the vibrancy of his color palette.

Copyright: Luis Davilla
Type: Spherical
Resolution: 25000x12500
Taken: 12/02/2013
Uploaded: 18/10/2016
Updated: 06/01/2019
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Tags: sistine; sistine chapel; michelangelo-artist; paintings; indoors; rome-italy; no people; cathedral; vatican; antique; creation; origins; old testament; sixtine chapel; vatican city; masterpiece
More About Rome

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These prices are a lot higher than the metro, but it's an activity more than just a ride.Now if you really want to do as the Romans do, rent yourself a Vespa scooter and drive it one-handed, shouting.People and CultureYou don't have to have a lot of money to have good style. That's Italian culture in a word.I'll go up against Paris right here and say that Italians have style all sewn up. Rocking a scooter in a red dress and stiletto heels? Come on.Here are a few piquant expressions which further the idea:"Finish that pasta so Nonna doesn't have to put it away.""It's sugar sweet and as big as your hand.""People do not age at the table."And concerning the stereotype that Italians all talk with their hands:"Mathematics is not a matter of opinion."Just imagine how funny it was, the first time that one sprung out.Things to do & RecommendationsFirst of all, go back and see all the panoramas in the top section. After you've been through the places and back, try these:Modern art at Gallery Nuovo Pesa.Worm through the Aseq esoteric library on your way to Limonaia Cafeteria for lunch.After lunch, pick up a few things at the most popular market in Rome, Piazza Vittorio.Be glad you're there and not eating only memories in the Traianei Market ancient Roman market.Some other gems in the city: the Trevi Fountain and its marketplaceFor a little more religious history, visit the 18th century Rococo style Plaza of St. Ignacio. Saint Ignacio was the founder of the Jesuits or Society of Jesus, the largest male religious order in the Catholic church.There are also some beautiful green spaces in Rome, like the historic park Il Pincio and Villa Borghese parks. Look at those cherry blossoms!For music lovers, the Auditorium is the main music hall in Rome.Text by Steve Smith.


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