The Sistine Chapel is likely the most popular sight to visit inside the Vatican Museums and for good reason. These Frescoes took many years to completed by a very talented artist and have been here for half a Millennia.
What is the Sistine Chapel?
The Sistine Chapel serves as the private chapel of the Pope and the place cardinals from around the world meet during conclave to elect a new pope. Located inside the Vatican Museums and originally called the Capella Magna, however. It was renamed after restoration by Pope Sixtus IV in 1477.
Aside from it’s religious and historical importance. It’s one of the most famous and visited sights in the world, due to the fresco paintings that cover the chapel.
The Sistine Chapel was originally decorated by other famous renaissance artists such as, Botticelli, Perugino and Ghirlandaio before being transformed into what you see today.
Who was Michelangelo?
Michelangelo was born Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni in Caprese to a middle-class family. At just the age of 6, Michelangelo’s mother passed away. He was consequently sent to Settignano where his father owned a farm and marble quarry to be left in the care of a nanny and her husband, a stone cutter.
This paved the way for his future and sparked his love for marble.
As a child he attended Grammar School but showed little interest in his studies and at the age of 13 began to apprentice under the famous Ghirlandaio. The following year Lorenzo de’ Medici asked Ghirlandaio to send his best two pupils – Michelangelo was one of them.
Michelangelo spent two years living at the court of Lorenzo the Great where he was able to mingle with the greatest minds of the time and hone his skills further.
Michelangelo and The Sistine Chapel
Michelangelo’s brilliance began to shine even brighter as he matures and his skills developed. He travelled around Italy completing works such as the Pietà and the Statue of David.
Michelangelo returned to Rome in 1505 when he was commissioned to build the Popes Tomb, a project that was expected to take 5 years. According to Condivi’s account, Bramante, the head architect for Pope Julius II was working on the Basilica. He resented Michelangelo for being commissioned for the Popes tomb.
To try and shame Michelangelo, he asked the Pope to commission Michelangelo to paint the Sistine Chapel. His plan was to have Michelangelo work in a medium he was unfamiliar with and fail.
Michelangelo proposed that instead of painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel with the 12 apostles, it depict the story from Genesis. However, Michelangelo was not happy to be painting the Sistine Chapel.
Why is the Sistine Chapel a Masterpiece?
Firstly, because painting in fresco in incredibly difficult. Fresco painting is when you plaster to a wall and add colour before it dries.
If you make a mistake, you have to break the plaster and start over. The second reason is that Michelangelo had not attempted Fresco painting before.
At the start he asked some friends to help complete the mammoth task but eventually let them go. He completed the entire ceiling alone over 4 years.
His style of art was new and showed defined and muscular people in his paintings. He influenced many artists who copied his style, including the famous Raphael when painting the papal apartments.
Michelangelo’s Later Years
Michelangelo went on to complete many more masterpieces, including The Last Judgement on the back wall of the Sistine Chapel. He passed away at the age of 88 before seeing his vision for St Peters Dome completed.
Michelangelo was laid to rest at the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence, where you can still find his tomb today.
Tours & Accommodation
We also have a range of great tours available in the Vatican, both Private and Small Group tours. Click the link below and feel free to contact us if you have any questions.
Be sure to also check out some accommodation using the search bar below, there are some great deals available!