The Sistine Chapel, also known as Capella Papalis (or Papal Chapel), was commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV in 1475 to 1483. Built by Giovanni de Dolci, and named after Sixtus IV, the chapel was designed to be virtually inaccessible from the outside, almost fortified. Under Pope Sixtus IV, painting began in 1482, painters such as Boticelli, Perugino, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli began to illustrate the Old and New Testements which face each other along the walls. The Life of Moses along one side depicting the Old Testement and on the other The Life of Christ showing the New Testement. Going a little further along are paintings from Botticelli, The Temptation of Christ, The Healing of the Leper and Moses with Jethro’s Daughters. Next there is the Crossing of the Red Sea by Rosselli and The Calling of the First Apostles by Ghirlandaio. Next comes Moses receiving the Tablets of the Law and the Sermon on the Mount both by Rosselli. Next is Botticelli’s Korah, Dathan and Abiram which faces the Delivery of the keys to St Peter by Perugino. Coming to the end of the frescoes there are The Testement and the Death of Moses on the left and Roselli’s greatest work The Last Supper.
Pope Julius II (5 December 1443 – 21 February 1513), nicknamed “The Fearsome Pope” (Il Papa Terribile) and “The Warrior Pope” (Il Papa Guerriero), was the pope who was responsible for calling Michelangelo to Rome from Florence. On seeing Michelangelo’s “Pieta” in the Vatican, the pope realised the talents of this young sculptor and commissioned him do turn artist and paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling, which was up till now blue with gold stars for decoration. Pope Julius wanted the Sistine Chapel to be so magnificent so as to rival anything else ever seen. Due to uneven footings there were cracks appearing in the ceiling which had to be repaired before work could be started, but in 1508 Michelangelo began work on his 12,000sq feet – 1,100 m² – canvas. This work took him until 1512 to complete. He undertook other works on the walls of the chapel including the Last Judgement painted in 1535. No other artist has ever produced such wonderful work as Michelangelo produced here in the Sistine Chapel, it outshines all other works of art in its size and ability and majesty and it is little wonder that it receives so many visitors each year who stand with their heads strained backwards to stare in awe at this marvellous sight.
Queues can be very long especially in the main holiday times but it is possible to book ahead and pre-book a guided tour of either 3 or 4 hours with Vatican Museums. For further information on booking ahead “click here”
Although the Vatican have relaxed the dress code one must still be aware that arms must be covered although nowadays long shorts to the knee are permitted.
There have been special routes designed for wheelchair users and disabled people. There are also wheelchairs available, free of charge, at the entrance for use within the museum.
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