Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina), Vatican City, Rome

"Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina), Vatican City, Rome" submitted by RomeTour Editorial Team and last updated on Tuesday 8th March 2011

Sistine Chapel (Cappella Sistina)), Vatican City, Rome

The chapel takes its name from Sixtus IV, who had chosen a big pontific chapel, existing from the 13th century, and had it rebuilt by Giovannino de'Dolci in 1475-81 as the official private chapel of the popes, and for the conclaves that are still held here. The chapel is a rectangle 41m long, 14m wide, and 21m high.

The frescoes on the long walls were painted in 1481-83; they depict parallel events in the lives of Moses (left) and of Christ (right), there are 6 on either side.

The barrel-vaulted ceiling is entirely covered by the celebrated frescoes of Michelangelo, who was working along without any assistance and completed it in 1508-12. The complex design combines Old and New Testament figures, as well as themes from pagan prophecy and Church history. The frescoes were restored in 1980-95. They had been discolored by dirt and candle smoke, and damaged by poor restorations in the past. This works changed the old concept, especially popular in 18th century, about Michelangelo insensible to the colours.

The pavement was realized in 15th century.

Between the windows lightening the chapel there are 24 full-stand portraits of popes, realized by D.Ghirlandaio, Botticelli, F.Diamante and C.Rosselli.

See the plan of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel:

plan of Sistine Chapel

1.Separation of Light from Darkness Separation of Light from Darkness (The 1st day of Creation)
2.Creaton of the Sun, Moon, and Planets 2.Creaton of the Sun, Moon, and Planets (The 4th day of Creation)
3.Separation of Land and Sea and the Creation of the fishes and birds 3.Separation of Land and Sea and the Creation of the fishes and birds (The 3rd day of Creation)
4.Creation of Adam 4.Creation of Adam (The 6th day of Creation)
5.Creation of Eve 5.Creation of Eve
6.Temptation and Expulsion from Paradise 6.Temptation and Expulsion from Paradise
7.Sacrifice of Noah 7.Sacrifice of Noah
8.The Flood 8.The Flood
9.Drunkenness of Noah 9.Drunkenness of Noah
14.Prophet Jonah issuing from the whale 14.Prophet Jonah issuing from the whale
18.Prophet Daniel daniel writing
25.Prophet Zachaiah 25.Prophet Zachaiah
20. Cumaean Sibyl 20. Cumaean Sibyl
21. Erythrean Sibyl 21. Erythrean Sibyl
24. Delphic Sibyl 24. Delphic Sibyl
23.Prophet Joel 23.Prophet Joel
22. Prophet Isaiah prophet_isaiah.jpg
Ignudo (Nude) ignudo
12. David and Goliath 12. David and Goliath
13. Judith and Holofernes 13. Judith and Holofernes

In 1535-41 (23 years later) Michelangelo was commissioned by Paul III to paint a huge (20x10m) fresco of the Last Judgement on the altar wall. This caused the walling-up of two windows, destruction of 2 frescoes (by Perugino) on the side walls and 2 lunettes painted by Michelangelo.

In the center is a figure of Christ-judge, dominating over the whole scene, which includes nearly 400 figures; near him are the Madonna and Adam, and on the right St Peter with the keys.

At Christ's feet are seated Sts Laurence and Bartholomew, two patrons of the city of Rome. In the lunettes high up above the figure of Christ are two groups of angels with the instruments of the Passion.

Beneath, on the left, are the elect ascending to heaven with the help of angels; in the center is a group of angels with trumpets; on the right the damned are being hauled down into hell. In this group is the famous figure of a soul in despair (Disperato) looking down into the abyss.

In the lowest zone, on the left, there is a scene representing the Resurrection of the Body; in the center is a cave full of devils; on the right is the entrance to hell, with the boat of Charon (as in Dante's description) and Minos, the guide to the infernal regions.

The nude figures of the Last Judgement, were proclaimed scandalous and, thus, were covered with the clothes by the order of Pius IV and work of Daniele da Volterra.

last judgement
Christ giving the keys to St Peter, by Perugino (pictured above)

christ giving the keys to st peter moses giving his rod to joshua and mourning for the death of moses
Moses giving his rod to Joshua, and Mourning for the death of Moses, by L.Signorelli and B.della Gatta (Pictured above)

Punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, by Botticelli
Punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram, by Botticelli (above picture)

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