The Sistine Chapel: the most famous frescos of the world

The Sistine Chapel is known all over the world as a great work by Michelangelo: it is the site of the Conclaves of the Catholic Church and of the most important Vatican ceremonies. It hosted innumerable Pope’s coronations, decorated by the greatest masterpieces of the western holy and profane art.
Which is the story of this wonder? Who did create its wonderful frescos?

Historical background
Despite it is the symbol of Michelangelo and of its Last Judgment, the Sistine Chapel didn’t become immediately famous: at the beginning, it didn’t have those frescos neither its current name or surface.
Its history began in 1368, when the first paper talking about it was written, telling about two certain communications. The first one states its decorations are from the following year, by Giottino and Giovanni da Milano, and the second one is it got seriously damaged by the civil struggles characterizing the Avignon Captivity, as for many other buildings in the eternal city. So it was a sad ruin, when Sisto IV became Pope, in August 1471. Well, a ruin lately used as a basis for a great project in the Urbis, as the Chapel witnesses. We can’t exactly date the end of works, but it should be located between the spring and the summer in 1481, according to some documents of the time, telling about its works and decorations. The definite conclusion is dated on 15th August 1483, when the Assunzione della Vergine Maria Chapel was consecrated.

Michelangelo and more
We said the Sistine Chapel is just considered as the place hosting the Last Judgment by Michelangelo – surely grateful for it –, but we can’t avoid mentioning the other artists. Even if people too often forget it, the beauty of the Chapel doesn’t depend on Buonarroti’s works only: you will find the Vocation of the Apostles, by Domenico Ghirlandaio, the famous Delivery of the Keys, by Pietro Perugino, the Rebels Punishment, by Botticelli, and many others more.

Location of the works and fun facts
The paintings were made paying deep attention on the architectural proportions of the chapel, to create a sort of visual Bible, telling the Bible and Gospel events, as it often happened in the past, but in a gorgeous way.
The works are located according to a precise order, creating six spaces for squares under the side windows and two ones on the front and back wall. The frescos are located on three levels: the first is partially covered by the tapestries, decorated by Raffaello; the second one represents Moses and Aronne’ stories on the left, and Jesus novels on the right; the last one is located over the windows, and it can be divided into two more levels, representing stories telling about Popes (from Pietro to Marcello) and frescos by Michelangelo. The two walls host symmetrical works, as they used to do at the time: some inscriptions tell the spectator some Latin descriptions about the frieze over them, to show the parallelism between Moses’ and Jesus’ stories. Moses is described as a precursor of Jesus, according to Saint Agostino’s words:

“God inspired and wrote the Bible and the Gospels, sensibly linking them in a strong way”.

Have a look on the roof: the Vault.
The most famous works are situated on the great vaults of the chapel, masterly decorated in 1508-1512, by Michelangelo.
They tell about the Genesis stories on the nine big squares the vault is made of, supported by some nudes, probably representing the man at his best. They keep medals in their hands, representing many famous scenes: the Books of the king, Sybilles and prophets. The works tell about the origins of human beings, linked to the holy documents. If you don’t trust this connection, you should observe the Bible episodes and their interconnections: the Ebbrezza di Noé introduces Cristo schernito, as the Genesis flood represents the Baptism.

A general overview
If you reflect on the global sense of the works and their location criteria, you understand the link among them: not only their great beauty, but the spiritual history of humanity and of the church, from the beginning till the end.
According to its popularity, we can actually say the Sistine Chapel has certainly witnessed this connections for five centuries.

Do you want to stay in Rome?

For this location we recommend Hotel Ariston, the ideal starting point to discover Rome!

Sistine Chapel RomeLast Judgment MichelangeloDomenico GhirlandaioDelivery of the Keys PeruginoRebels Punishment BotticelliThe Vault Michelangelo

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