Sistine Chapel: Michelangelo’s Great Work in Vatican
The Sistine Chapel, the official residence of the Pope, is one of the most famous places in the Vatican state. Since its construction, it has been used for important church services and as a meeting place for the election of a new pope.
The Sistina Chapel is named after Pope Sixtus IV, who had the chapel built. The construction of the chapel started in 1477 and it was opened in 1483. It is a magnificent structure with a height of 20.70 meters, a length of 40.93 meters and a width of 13.41 meters.
The decision to decoratively revitalize the chapel with paintings was made by Pope Julius II. Built in 3 floors, the lowest floor of the walls was painted immediately after construction, as if there were curtains. Today these paintings still look exactly as they were painted.
On the middle level of the walls are fresco paintings of the lives of Jesus and Moses by famous painters such as Botticelli, Perugino, Signorelli and Rosselli. On the third floor are the paintings of the 32 popes who held the papacy until then.
The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel was originally painted blue because it depicted the sky. However, after the chapel turned into an important meeting center, it was decided to replace the ceiling with paintings with meaning. Michelangelo, who was famous as a good sculptor at the time, signed a contract upon the insistence of Pope Julius II and undertook the painting of the ceiling of the chapel in 1508.
The painting technique, which is carried out by rubbing on the undried liquid, is called fresco. Michelangelo had worked as an apprentice in a workshop that produced many works on frescoes in his time, and even apprenticed in the work of the owner of the workshop in the chapel. The artist, who quickly mastered his talent, successfully realized the task assigned to him between 1508 and 1512 and painted the ceiling of the chapel according to the book of Genesis of the Bible, their holy book.
According to the creation myth, in the first scene God separates light from darkness and depicts the first day of creation. It is thought that Michelangelo painted himself here. In the second scene, the planets are created. While the god on the left creates the earth, the left of the god on the right creates the sun in the daytime and the right creates the moon at night.
In the third scene, the god separates the sky from the waters. The fourth scene in the center of the ceiling is one of the most famous works of art in the world. It is the Creation of Adam. According to the Bible, God created Adam in his own image. The physical resemblance between the two men in the painting depicts this. In this fresco, God gives life to Adam, the first man, with his fingers, and Eve, the first woman, looks out from under God’s left arm. In the next fresco, Eve emerges from Adam’s side and comes to life.
It depicts Adam and Eve being tempted by Satan and eating the forbidden apple. They are then expelled from the Garden of Eden by an angel.
Other frescoes are about the great flood of Noah. There are frescoes of people floating and trying to escape the flood waters and Noah’s sacrifice after the flood.
On the sides of these frescoes, prophets such as Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, Ezekiel, Isaiah and the Sibyllias of the pagan era, who are believed to have prophesied the coming of Jesus, are depicted.
The pendants at the corners of the ceiling depict the violence of the Israelites in their deliverance from their enemies and their own sinful ways.
Between 1534 and 1541, Michelangelo completed the chapel by adding the Last Judgment on the large wall on the altar side of the chapel, depicting the Day of Judgment.
With over 5 million visitors a year, the Vatican is one of the top visitor attractions in the world, and most visitors to the Vatican actually go to see the Sistine Chapel and its beauty. Photography is forbidden inside and security guards are constantly shushing visitors with shushing noises.
If you go to see the Sistine Chapel, be sure to study the pictures above one by one. Yes, it can be a bit of a neck ache, but you are just a spectator. Michelangelo painted those paintings with neck pains that he would not forget for years.
If you wish, you can also examine the Sistine Chapel in detail on the sofa at home. The Vatican has created a web page where we can watch and examine the Sistine Chapel in 3D. By entering this address, you can navigate the Sistine Chapel in 360 degrees with the Ctrl and Shift keys. The entrance fee also includes other Vatican Museums.
The Sistine Chapel and the other Vatican Museums are open every day of the week except Sunday, with visiting hours from 09:00 to 16:00. At 16:00 the last admissions are taken and at 18:00 the museums are completely closed. However, if you visit on the last Sunday of the month between 09:00 – 12:30, you can enter for free. At 14:00 they close completely.