On the spot where the Sistine Chapel stands today was once a chapel named “Capella Magna.” This is only one of the interesting facts you will learn when you are part of small or semi-private Sistine Chapel tours. The chapel, as it is known today, was started in 1477. It is called the Sistine Chapel after Pope Sixtus IV who initiated the construction.
Although there is no way to be sure, it is reputed that the chapel dimensions are the same as Solomon’s temple in Jerusalem. From the outside, the chapel is simple and unassuming, nothing like the splendor found within.
Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Although celebrated painters of their time, including Rosselli and Botticelli, had been commissioned to decorate the chapel, the ceiling was not included; it was left blue with the only decoration being stars. Being a sculptor, at first, Michelangelo balked. At the time, he was working on sculptures destined for the emperor’s tomb. Fortunately, he relented and began the task of painting the ceiling. The last fresco to be completed is probably the best known; it is “The Last Judgment” high above the altar.
The Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
The form of the ceiling allowed Michelangelo to paint nine scenes from the Book of Genesis. At the altar, end is a fresco called “The Separation of Light from Darkness.” At the far end, he painted what is known as “The Drunkenness of Noah.” Other famous frescos include “The Fall of Man” and the “Expulsion from Paradise.”
The chapel also contains a fresco that attempts to depict the second coming of Christ. Those that are blessed sit to the right of Christ, looking into heaven. The damned is on Christ’s left and are being sent into the fires of hell.
Words alone cannot express the beauty and serenity of the chapel; only by taking Sistine Chapel tours will you fully understand this artistic masterpiece.