The Sistine Chapel (Vatican, Italy)


Creation of Adam by Michelangelo (from Wikipedia)

The Sistine Chapel, whose ceiling is adorned with the fresco masterpieces painted by Michelangelo, outside of being the site of Papal conclaves, is more than a destination for tourists. It is arguably one of the great achievements of Renaissance art, even more remarkable for the fact that Michelangelo really didn’t want to do it even when offered the commission by Pope Julius II. After compromises were made by the Pope, notably allowing Michelangelo to paint whatever biblical scenes he wanted, it took Michelangelo four years (1508-1512) to complete over 300 scenes over an area of 5,000 square feet, painted entirely while on his back on a scaffold. While there are masterpieces by other artists here as well, including Botticelli and Ghirlandaio, it is Michelangelo’s ceiling that towers figuratively and literally over all of them.

In order to experience it with as little a crowd around us as possible, Robin, our guide, shuttled us through the Vatican Museum as quickly as possible, even though she did stop occasionally to point out some of the museum’s highlights. In order to do the museum justice, we would have to return on our own, something we didn’t get a chance to do. One of the biggest problems is that it is visited by hordes of people with lines to purchase tickets snaking out well in front of the entrance. When we finally reached the Sistine Chapel, we were awed by its sheer size and the enormity of Michelangelo’s accomplishment, the ceiling almost 70 feet above the floor.

The most famous fresco is likely The Creation of Adam (above), which rests at the center along with two other episodes from the story of Adam and Eve. There are many other scenes from the Bible, which I’m not going to bother to summarize. The cumulative effect of seeing the entire corpus was overwhelming.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (from Wikipedia)

I have no personal photographs to share since no photography was allowed.

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