Sistine Chapel

Sistine Chapel

Overview
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

ed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

, Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino , born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance...

, Pinturicchio
Pinturicchio
Bernardino di Betto, called Pintoricchio or Pinturicchio was an Italian painter of the Renaissance. He acquired his nickname, Pintoricchio , because of his small stature, and he used it to sign some of his works....

 and others. Under the patronage of Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II , nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" , born Giuliano della Rovere, was Pope from 1503 to 1513...

, Michelangelo painted 1100 m² (1,315.6 sq yd) of the chapel ceiling
Sistine Chapel ceiling
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, at the commission of Pope Julius II, is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. The ceiling is that of the large Papal Chapel built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV after whom it is named...

 between 1508 and 1512. He resented the commission, and believed his work only served the Pope's need for grandeur.
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Encyclopedia
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration that was fresco
Fresco
Fresco is any of several related mural painting types, executed on plaster on walls or ceilings. The word fresco comes from the Greek word affresca which derives from the Latin word for "fresh". Frescoes first developed in the ancient world and continued to be popular through the Renaissance...

ed throughout by Renaissance artists including Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

, Sandro Botticelli
Sandro Botticelli
Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

, Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino , born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance...

, Pinturicchio
Pinturicchio
Bernardino di Betto, called Pintoricchio or Pinturicchio was an Italian painter of the Renaissance. He acquired his nickname, Pintoricchio , because of his small stature, and he used it to sign some of his works....

 and others. Under the patronage of Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II , nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" , born Giuliano della Rovere, was Pope from 1503 to 1513...

, Michelangelo painted 1100 m² (1,315.6 sq yd) of the chapel ceiling
Sistine Chapel ceiling
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, at the commission of Pope Julius II, is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art. The ceiling is that of the large Papal Chapel built within the Vatican between 1477 and 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV after whom it is named...

 between 1508 and 1512. He resented the commission, and believed his work only served the Pope's need for grandeur. However, today the ceiling, and especially The Last Judgment
The Last Judgment (Michelangelo)
The Last Judgment is a canonical fresco by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City...

(1535–1541), is widely believed to be Michelangelo's crowning achievement in painting.

The chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...

, who restored the old Cappella Magna between 1477 and 1480. During this period a team of painters that included Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino
Pietro Perugino , born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance...

, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.-Early years:Ghirlandaio's full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi...

 created a series of frescoed panels depicting the life of Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 and the life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe l’oeil drapery below. These paintings were completed in 1482, and on 15 August 1483, Sixtus IV celebrated the first mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 in the Sistine Chapel for the Feast of the Assumption
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Since the time of Sixtus IV, the chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave
Papal conclave
A papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, who then becomes the Pope during a period of vacancy in the papal office. The Pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church...

, the process by which a new Pope is selected.

History


The Sistine Chapel is best known for being the location of Papal conclaves; it is, however, the chapel of the Papal Chapel (Cappella Pontificia), one of the two bodies of the Papal household, called until 1968 the Papal Court (Pontificalis Aula). At the time of Pope Sixtus IV in the late 15th century, the Papal Chapel  comprised about 200 people, including clerics, officials of the Vatican
Holy See
The Holy See is the episcopal jurisdiction of the Catholic Church in Rome, in which its Bishop is commonly known as the Pope. It is the preeminent episcopal see of the Catholic Church, forming the central government of the Church. As such, diplomatically, and in other spheres the Holy See acts and...

 and distinguished laity. There were 50 occasions during the year on which it was prescribed by the Papal Calendar that the whole Papal Chapel should meet. Of these 50 occasions, 35 were masses, of which 8 were held in Basilicas, in general St. Peter's
St. Peter's Basilica
The Papal Basilica of Saint Peter , officially known in Italian as ' and commonly known as Saint Peter's Basilica, is a Late Renaissance church located within the Vatican City. Saint Peter's Basilica has the largest interior of any Christian church in the world...

, and were attended by large congregations. These included the Christmas Day and Easter masses, at which the Pope himself was the celebrant
Liturgy
Liturgy is either the customary public worship done by a specific religious group, according to its particular traditions or a more precise term that distinguishes between those religious groups who believe their ritual requires the "people" to do the "work" of responding to the priest, and those...

. The other 27 masses could be held in a smaller, less public space, for which the Cappella Maggiore was used before it was rebuilt on the same site as the Sistine Chapel.

The Cappella Maggiore derived its name, the Greater Chapel, from the fact that there was another chapel also in use by the Pope and his retinue for daily worship. At the time of Pope Sixtus IV, this was the Chapel of Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V
Pope Nicholas V , born Tommaso Parentucelli, was Pope from March 6, 1447 to his death in 1455.-Biography:He was born at Sarzana, Liguria, where his father was a physician...

, which had been decorated by Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico
Fra Angelico , born Guido di Pietro, was an Early Italian Renaissance painter described by Vasari in his Lives of the Artists as having "a rare and perfect talent"...

. The Cappella Maggiore is recorded as existing in 1368. According to a communication from Andreas of Trebizond to Pope Sixtus IV, by the time of its demolition to make way for the present chapel, the Cappella Maggiore was in a ruinous state with its walls leaning.

The present chapel, on the site of the Cappella Maggiore, was designed by Baccio Pontelli
Baccio Pontelli
Baccio Pontelli was an Italian architect. Baccio is an abbreviation of Bartolomeo.Pontelli was born in Florence. Passing the phase of artistic formation with Giuliano and Benedetto da Maiano in Florence, and influenced by Francesco di Giorgio Martini during the trip to Urbino , he was an in-layer...

 for Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it is named, and built under the supervision of Giovannino de Dolci between 1473 and 1481. The proportions of the present chapel appear to closely follow those of the original. After its completion, the chapel was decorated with frescoes by a number of the most famous artists of the High Renaissance
High Renaissance
The expression High Renaissance, in art history, is a periodizing convention used to denote the apogee of the visual arts in the Italian Renaissance...

, including Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.-Early years:Ghirlandaio's full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi...

, Perugino, and Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

.

The first mass
Mass (liturgy)
"Mass" is one of the names by which the sacrament of the Eucharist is called in the Roman Catholic Church: others are "Eucharist", the "Lord's Supper", the "Breaking of Bread", the "Eucharistic assembly ", the "memorial of the Lord's Passion and Resurrection", the "Holy Sacrifice", the "Holy and...

 in the Sistine Chapel was celebrated on 9 August 1483, the Feast of the Assumption
Assumption of Mary
According to the belief of Christians of the Roman Catholic Church, Eastern Orthodoxy, Oriental Orthodoxy, and parts of the Anglican Communion and Continuing Anglicanism, the Assumption of Mary was the bodily taking up of the Virgin Mary into Heaven at the end of her life...

, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The Sistine Chapel has maintained its function to the present day, and continues to host the important services of the Papal Calendar, unless the Pope is travelling. There is a permanent choir, the Sistine Chapel Choir
Sistine Chapel Choir
The Sistine Chapel Choir is a choir based in Vatican City and is one of the oldest religious choirs in the world. At present, the choir comprises approximately twenty adult singers and thirty unpaid boy choristers .-Middle Ages :Although it is known that the Church, from her earliest days,...

, for whom much original music has been written, the most famous piece being Gregorio Allegri
Gregorio Allegri
Gregorio Allegri was an Italian composer of the Roman School and brother of Domenico Allegri; he was also a priest and a singer. He lived mainly in Rome, where he would later die.-Life:...

's Miserere
Miserere (Allegri)
Miserere, full name "Miserere mei, Deus" by Italian composer Gregorio Allegri, is a setting of Psalm 51 composed during the reign of Pope Urban VIII, probably during the 1630s, for use in the Sistine Chapel during matins, as part of the exclusive Tenebrae service on Wednesday and Friday of Holy...

.

Papal Conclave



One of the primary functions of the Sistine Chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive pope in a conclave
Papal conclave
A papal conclave is a meeting of the College of Cardinals convened to elect a Bishop of Rome, who then becomes the Pope during a period of vacancy in the papal office. The Pope is considered by Roman Catholics to be the apostolic successor of Saint Peter and earthly head of the Roman Catholic Church...

 of the College of Cardinals
College of Cardinals
The College of Cardinals is the body of all cardinals of the Catholic Church.A function of the college is to advise the pope about church matters when he summons them to an ordinary consistory. It also convenes on the death or abdication of a pope as a papal conclave to elect a successor...

. On the occasion of a conclave, a chimney is installed in the roof of the chapel, from which smoke arises as a signal. If white smoke appears, created by burning the ballots of the election, a new Pope has been elected. If a candidate receives less than a two-thirds majority, the cardinals send up black smoke—created by burning the ballots along with wet straw and chemical additives—it means that no successful election has yet occurred.

The conclave also provided for the cardinals a space in which they can hear mass, and in which they can eat, sleep, and pass time abetted by servants. From 1455, conclaves have been held in the Vatican
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

; until the Great Schism
Western Schism
The Western Schism or Papal Schism was a split within the Catholic Church from 1378 to 1417. Two men simultaneously claimed to be the true pope. Driven by politics rather than any theological disagreement, the schism was ended by the Council of Constance . The simultaneous claims to the papal chair...

, they were held in the Dominican
Dominican Order
The Order of Preachers , after the 15th century more commonly known as the Dominican Order or Dominicans, is a Catholic religious order founded by Saint Dominic and approved by Pope Honorius III on 22 December 1216 in France...

 convent of Santa Maria sopra Minerva
Santa Maria sopra Minerva
The Basilica of Saint Mary Above Minerva is a titular minor basilica and one of the most important churches of the Roman Catholic Dominican order in Rome, Italy. The church, located in the Piazza della Minerva in the Campus Martius region, is considered the only Gothic church in Rome. It houses...

. Since 1996, John Paul II's Apostolic Constitution
Apostolic constitution
An apostolic constitution is the highest level of decree issued by the Pope. The use of the term constitution comes from Latin constitutio, which referred to any important law issued by the Roman emperor, and is retained in church documents because of the inheritance that the canon law of the...

  Universi Dominici Gregis
Universi Dominici Gregis
Universi Dominici Gregis is an Apostolic Constitution of the Catholic Church issued by Pope John Paul II on February 22, 1996. It superseded Pope Paul VI's 1975 Apostolic Constitution, Romano Pontifici Eligendo....

requires the cardinals to be lodged in the Domus Sanctae Marthae
Domus Sanctae Marthae
The Domus Sanctæ Marthæ is a building completed in 1996 adjacent to Saint Peter's Basilica in the Vatican City built during the reign of Pope John Paul II...

 during a papal conclave, but to continue to vote in the Sistine Chapel.

Canopies for each cardinal-elector were once used during conclaves—a sign of equal dignity. After the new Pope accepts his election, he would give his new name; at this time, the other Cardinals would tug on a rope attached to their seats to lower their canopies. Until reforms instituted by Saint Pius X, the canopies were of different colours to designate which Cardinals had been appointed by which Pope. Paul VI
Pope Paul VI
Paul VI , born Giovanni Battista Enrico Antonio Maria Montini , reigned as Pope of the Catholic Church from 21 June 1963 until his death on 6 August 1978. Succeeding Pope John XXIII, who had convened the Second Vatican Council, he decided to continue it...

 abolished the canopies altogether, since, under his papacy, the population of the College of Cardinals had increased so much to the point that they would need to be seated in rows of two against the walls, making the canopies obstruct the view of the cardinals in the back row.

Exterior


The Chapel is a high rectangular brick building, its exterior unadorned by architectural or decorative details, as common in many Medieval
Medieval architecture
Medieval architecture is a term used to represent various forms of architecture common in Medieval Europe.-Characteristics:-Religious architecture:...

 and Renaissance
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

 churches in Italy. It has no exterior facade or exterior processional doorways, as the ingress has always been from internal rooms within the Apostolic Palace
Apostolic Palace
The Apostolic Palace is the official residence of the Pope, which is located in Vatican City. It is also known as the Sacred Palace, the Papal Palace and the Palace of the Vatican...

 (Papal Palace), and the exterior can be seen only from nearby windows and light-wells in the palace. The internal spaces are divided into three stories of which the lowest is huge, with a robustly vaulted basement with several utilitarian windows and a doorway giving onto the exterior court.


Above is the main space, the Chapel, the internal measurements of which are 40.9 metres (134.2 ft) long by 13.4 metres (44 ft) wide—the dimension
Dimension
In physics and mathematics, the dimension of a space or object is informally defined as the minimum number of coordinates needed to specify any point within it. Thus a line has a dimension of one because only one coordinate is needed to specify a point on it...

s of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament
Old Testament
The Old Testament, of which Christians hold different views, is a Christian term for the religious writings of ancient Israel held sacred and inspired by Christians which overlaps with the 24-book canon of the Masoretic Text of Judaism...

. The vaulted ceiling rises to 20.7 metres (67.9 ft). The building had six tall arched windows down each side and two at either end. Several of these have been blocked, but the chapel is still accessible. Above the vault rises a third story with wardrooms for guards. At this level, an open projecting gangway was constructed, which encircled the building supported on an arcade springing from the walls. The gangway has been roofed as it was a continual source of water leaking in to the vault of the Chapel.

Subsidence and cracking of masonry such as must also have affected the Cappella Maggiore has necessitated the building of very large buttress
Buttress
A buttress is an architectural structure built against or projecting from a wall which serves to support or reinforce the wall...

es to brace the exterior walls. The accretion of other buildings has further altered the exterior appearance of the Chapel.

Interior


As with most buildings measured internally, absolute measurement is hard to ascertain. However, the general proportions of the chapel are clear to within a few centimeters. The length is the measurement and has been divided by three to get the width and by two to get the height. Maintaining the ratio, there were six windows down each side and two at either end. The screen that divides the chapel was originally placed halfway from the altar wall, but this has changed. Clearly defined proportions were a feature of Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture
Renaissance architecture is the architecture of the period between the early 15th and early 17th centuries in different regions of Europe, demonstrating a conscious revival and development of certain elements of ancient Greek and Roman thought and material culture. Stylistically, Renaissance...

 and reflected the growing interest in the Classical heritage of Rome.

The ceiling of the chapel is a flattened barrel vault springing from a course that encircles the walls at the level of the springing of the window arches. This barrel vault is cut transversely by smaller vaults over each window, which divide the barrel vault at its lowest level into a series of large pendentives rising from shallow pilasters between each window. The barrel vault was originally painted brilliant-blue and dotted with gold stars, to the design of Piermatteo Lauro de' Manfredi da Amelia
Piermatteo Lauro de' Manfredi da Amelia
Piermatteo Lauro de' Manfredi da Amelia was an Italian painter.-Biography:Piermatteo was born at Amelia, in Umbria.He is first recorded as being part of the circle of Filippo Lippi, active between 1467 and 1469, working on the decoration of the Spoleto Cathedral...

. The pavement is in opus alexandrinum, a decorative style using marble and coloured stone in a pattern that reflects the earlier proportion in the division of the interior and also marks the processional way from the main door, used by the Pope on important occasions such as Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday is a Christian moveable feast that falls on the Sunday before Easter. The feast commemorates Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem, an event mentioned in all four Canonical Gospels. ....

.

The screen or transenna in marble by Mino da Fiesole
Mino da Fiesole
Mino da Fiesole , also known as Mino di Giovanni, was an Italian sculptor from Poppi, Tuscany. He is noted for his portrait busts.-Career:...

, Andrea Bregno
Andrea Bregno
Andrea di Cristoforo Bregno was an Italian sculptor and architect of the Early Renaissance who worked in Rome from the 1460s and died just as the High Renaissance was getting under way.-Early life:...

, and Giovanni Dalmata divides the chapel into two parts. Originally these made equal space for the members of the Papal Chapel within the sanctuary near the altar
Altar
An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship...

 and the pilgrims and townsfolk without. However, with growth in the number of those attending the Pope, the screen was moved giving a reduced area for the faithful laity. The transenna is surmounted by a row of ornate candlesticks, once gilt, and has a wooden door, where once there was an ornate door of gilded wrought iron. The sculptors of the transenna also provided the cantoria or projecting choir gallery.

Raphael's tapestries


During occasional ceremonies of particular importance, the side walls are covered with a series of tapestries, the originals of which were designed for the chapel by Raphael
Raphael
Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino , better known simply as Raphael, was an Italian painter and architect of the High Renaissance. His work is admired for its clarity of form and ease of composition and for its visual achievement of the Neoplatonic ideal of human grandeur...

 and depict events from the Life of St. Peter and the Life of St. Paul as described in the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

: the full-size preparatory cartoon
Cartoon
A cartoon is a form of two-dimensional illustrated visual art. While the specific definition has changed over time, modern usage refers to a typically non-realistic or semi-realistic drawing or painting intended for satire, caricature, or humor, or to the artistic style of such works...

s for seven of the ten tapestries are known as the Raphael Cartoons
Raphael Cartoons
The Raphael Cartoons are seven large cartoons for tapestries, now in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, painted by the High Renaissance painter Raphael in 1515-16 and showing scenes from the Gospels and Acts of the Apostles...

 and are in London. Raphael's tapestries were looted during in the Sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (1527)
The Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527 was a military event carried out by the mutinous troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in Rome, then part of the Papal States...

 in 1527 and were either burnt for their precious metal content or were scattered around Europe. In the late 20th century, a set was reassembled (several further sets had been made) and displayed again in the Sistine Chapel in 1983.

Decoration


The walls are divided into three main tiers. The lower is decorated with frescoed wall hangings in silver and gold. The central tier of the walls has two cycles of paintings, which complement each other, The Life of Moses and The Life of Christ. They were commissioned in 1480 by Pope Sixtus IV and executed by Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio
Domenico Ghirlandaio was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.-Early years:Ghirlandaio's full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi...

, Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Roselli and their workshops. The Florentine painters, who were to join Perugino, who was already there and was perhaps the superintendent of the whole decoration, left Florence on 27 October 1480: their call was part of a reconciliation project between Lorenzo de' Medici
Lorenzo de' Medici
Lorenzo de' Medici was an Italian statesman and de facto ruler of the Florentine Republic during the Italian Renaissance. Known as Lorenzo the Magnificent by contemporary Florentines, he was a diplomat, politician and patron of scholars, artists and poets...

, the de facto ruler of Florence
Republic of Florence
The Republic of Florence , or the Florentine Republic, was a city-state that was centered on the city of Florence, located in modern Tuscany, Italy. The republic was founded in 1115, when the Florentine people rebelled against the Margraviate of Tuscany upon Margravine Matilda's death. The...

, and Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV
Pope Sixtus IV , born Francesco della Rovere, was Pope from 1471 to 1484. His accomplishments as Pope included the establishment of the Sistine Chapel; the group of artists that he brought together introduced the Early Renaissance into Rome with the first masterpiece of the city's new artistic age,...

. The Florentines started to work in the Sistine Chapel as early as the Spring of 1481.

The upper tier is divided into two zones. At the lower level of the windows is a Gallery of Popes painted at the same time as the Lives. Around the arched tops of the windows are areas known as the lunette
Lunette
In architecture, a lunette is a half-moon shaped space, either filled with recessed masonry or void. A lunette is formed when a horizontal cornice transects a round-headed arch at the level of the imposts, where the arch springs. If a door is set within a round-headed arch, the space within the...

s
which contain the Ancestors of Christ, painted by Michelangelo as part of the scheme for the ceiling.

The ceiling, commissioned by Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II , nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" , born Giuliano della Rovere, was Pope from 1503 to 1513...

 and painted by Michelangelo between 1508 to 1512, has a series of nine paintings showing God's Creation of the World, God's Relationship with Mankind, and Mankind's Fall from God's Grace. On the large pendentive
Pendentive
A pendentive is a constructive device permitting the placing of a circular dome over a square room or an elliptical dome over a rectangular room. The pendentives, which are triangular segments of a sphere, taper to points at the bottom and spread at the top to establish the continuous circular or...

s that support the vault are painted twelve Biblical and Classical men and women who prophesied that God would send Jesus Christ for the salvation of mankind.

In 1515, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X
Pope Leo X , born Giovanni di Lorenzo de' Medici, was the Pope from 1513 to his death in 1521. He was the last non-priest to be elected Pope. He is known for granting indulgences for those who donated to reconstruct St. Peter's Basilica and his challenging of Martin Luther's 95 Theses...

 to design a series of ten tapestries to hang around the lower tier of the walls. Raphael was at the time twenty-five and an established artist in Florence, with a number of wealthy patrons, yet he was ambitious, and keen to make an entry into the patronage of the papacy. Raphael was attracted by the ambition and energy of Rome.

Raphael saw the commission as an opportunity to be compared with Michelangelo, while Leo saw tapestries
Tapestry
Tapestry is a form of textile art, traditionally woven on a vertical loom, however it can also be woven on a floor loom as well. It is composed of two sets of interlaced threads, those running parallel to the length and those parallel to the width ; the warp threads are set up under tension on a...

 as his answer to the ceiling of Julius. The subjects he chose were based on the text of the Acts of the Apostles
Acts of the Apostles
The Acts of the Apostles , usually referred to simply as Acts, is the fifth book of the New Testament; Acts outlines the history of the Apostolic Age...

. Work began in mid-1515. Due to their large size, manufacture of the hangings was carried out in Brussels, and took four years under the hands of the weavers in the shop of Pieter van Aelst
Pieter van Aelst
Pieter van Aelst or Pieter Coecke van Aelst was a Flemish painter. He studied under Bernaert van Orley and later lived in Italy before entering the Antwerp Guild of painters in 1527. In 1533, he travelled to Constantinople for one year in a failed attempt to establish business connections for...

.

Although Michelangelo's complex design for the ceiling was not quite what his patron, Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II , nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" , born Giuliano della Rovere, was Pope from 1503 to 1513...

, had in mind when he commissioned Michelangelo to paint the Twelve Apostles, the scheme displayed a consistent iconographical pattern. However, this was disrupted by a further commission to Michelangelo to decorate the wall above the altar with The Last Judgement
The Last Judgment (Michelangelo)
The Last Judgment is a canonical fresco by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City...

, 1537–1541. The painting of this scene necessitated the obliteration of two episodes from the Lives, several of the Popes and two sets of Ancestors. Two of the windows were blocked and two of Raphael's tapestries became redundant.

Frescoes



Southern wall


The southern wall is decorated with the Stories of Moses, painted in 1481–1482. Starting from the altar, they include:
  • Moses Leaving to Egypt by Pietro Perugino
    Pietro Perugino
    Pietro Perugino , born Pietro Vannucci, was an Italian Renaissance painter of the Umbrian school, who developed some of the qualities that found classic expression in the High Renaissance...

     and assistants
  • The Trials of Moses by Sandro Botticelli
    Sandro Botticelli
    Alessandro di Mariano di Vanni Filipepi, better known as Sandro Botticelli was an Italian painter of the Early Renaissance...

     and his workshop
  • The Crossing of the Red Sea
    The Crossing of the Red Sea (Sistine Chapel)
    The Crossing of the Red Sea is a fresco executed in 1481-1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome. Of uncertain attribution, it has been assigned to one between Domenico Ghirlandaio, Biagio d'Antonio or Cosimo Rosselli.-History:...

    by Cosimo Rosselli
    Cosimo Rosselli
    Cosimo Rosselli was an Italian painter of the Quattrocento, active mainly in his birthplace of Florence.-Biography:Born in Florence, at the age of fourteen he became a pupil of Neri di Bicci, and in 1460 he worked as assistant to his cousin Bernardo di Stefano Rosselli...

    , Domenico Ghirlandaio
    Domenico Ghirlandaio
    Domenico Ghirlandaio was an Italian Renaissance painter from Florence. Among his many apprentices was Michelangelo.-Early years:Ghirlandaio's full name is given as Domenico di Tommaso di Currado di Doffo Bigordi...

     or Biagio di Antonio Tucci
  • Descent from Mount Sinai
    Descent from Mount Sinai (Sistine Chapel)
    The Descent from Mount Sinai is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Cosimo Rosselli and his assistants, executed in 1481-1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Cosimo Rosselli or Piero di Cosimo
    Piero di Cosimo
    Piero di Cosimo , also known as Piero di Lorenzo, was an Italian Renaissance painter.-Biography:The son of a goldsmith, Piero was born in Florence and apprenticed under the artist Cosimo Rosseli, from whom he derived his popular name and whom he assisted in the painting of the Sistine Chapel in...

  • Punishment of the Rebels
    Punishment of the Rebels
    The Punishment of the Rebels is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, executed in 1480-1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Sandro Botticelli
  • Testament and Death of Moses
    Testament and Death of Moses
    The Testament and Death of Moses is a fresco attributed to the Italian Renaissance painters Luca Signorelli and Bartolomeo della Gatta, executed in around 1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Luca Signorelli
    Luca Signorelli
    Luca Signorelli was an Italian Renaissance painter who was noted in particular for his ability as a draughtsman and his use of foreshortening...

     or Bartolomeo della Gatta
    Bartolomeo della Gatta
    Bartolomeo della Gatta , born Pietro di Antonio Dei, was an Italian painter, illuminator, and architect. He was the son of a goldsmith. He was a colleague of Fra Bartolommeo. In 1468, Bartolomeo became a monk in the Order of Camaldoli, probably in the Church of Santa Maria degli Angeli in...


Northern wall


The northern wall houses the Stories of Jesus, dating to 1481–1482. They include:
  • Baptism of Christ by Pietro Perugino and assistants
  • Temptation of Christ
    Temptations of Christ (Botticelli)
    The Temptations of Christ is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli, executed in 1480–1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Sandro Botticelli
  • Vocation of the Apostles
    Vocation of the Apostles
    The Vocation of the Apostles is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Domenico Ghirlandaio, executed in 1481-1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Domenico Ghirlandaio
  • The Sermon on the Mount
    Sermon on the Mount
    The Sermon on the Mount is a collection of sayings and teachings of Jesus, which emphasizes his moral teaching found in the Gospel of Matthew...

    , attributed to Cosimo Rosselli
  • The Delivery of the Keys
    Delivery of the Keys (Perugino)
    The Delivery of the Keys, or Christ Giving the Keys to St. Peter is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painter Pietro Perugino, executed in 1481-1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Pietro Perugino
  • The Last Supper
    Last Supper (Rosselli)
    The Last Supper is a fresco by the Italian Renaissance painters Cosimo Rosselli and Biagio d'Antonio, executed in 1481-1482 and located in the Sistine Chapel, Rome.-History:...

    by Cosimo Rosselli

Eastern wall

  • Resurrection of Christ by Hendrik Van den Broeck (1572) over Domenico Ghirlandaio's original
  • Disputation over Moses' Body by Matteo da Lecce (1574) over Luca Signorelli's original

Michelangelo's frescoes


Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II
Pope Julius II , nicknamed "The Fearsome Pope" and "The Warrior Pope" , born Giuliano della Rovere, was Pope from 1503 to 1513...

 in 1508 to repaint the vault, or ceiling, of the Chapel. It was originally painted as golden stars on a blue sky. The work was completed between 1508 and 2 November 1512. He painted the Last Judgment
Last Judgment
The Last Judgment, Final Judgment, Day of Judgment, Judgment Day, or The Day of the Lord in Christian theology, is the final and eternal judgment by God of every nation. The concept is found in all the Canonical gospels, particularly the Gospel of Matthew. It will purportedly take place after the...

 over the altar
Altar
An altar is any structure upon which offerings such as sacrifices are made for religious purposes. Altars are usually found at shrines, and they can be located in temples, churches and other places of worship...

, between 1535 and 1541, on commission from Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III
Pope Paul III , born Alessandro Farnese, was Pope of the Roman Catholic Church from 1534 to his death in 1549. He came to the papal throne in an era following the sack of Rome in 1527 and rife with uncertainties in the Catholic Church following the Protestant Reformation...

 Farnese.

Michelangelo was intimidated by the scale of the commission, and made it known from the outset of Julius II's approach that he would prefer to decline. He felt he was more of a sculptor than a painter, and was suspicious that such a large-scale project was being offered to him by enemies as a set-up for an inevitable fall. For Michelangelo, the project was a distraction from the major marble sculpture that had preoccupied him for the previous few years.

The sources of Michelangelo's inspiration are not easily determined; both Joachite and Augustinian theologians were within the sphere of Julius influence. Nor is known the extent to which his own hand physically contributed to the actual physical painting of any of the particular images attributed to him.

Ceiling



To be able to reach the ceiling, Michelangelo needed a support; the first idea was by Julius' favoured architect Donato Bramante, who wanted to build for him a scaffold
Scaffolding
Scaffolding is a temporary structure used to support people and material in the construction or repair of buildings and other large structures. It is usually a modular system of metal pipes or tubes, although it can be from other materials...

 to be suspended in the air with ropes. However, Bramante did not successfully complete the task, and the structure he built was flawed. He had perforated the vault in order to lower strings to secure the scaffold. Michelangelo laughed when he saw the structure, and believed it would leave holes in the ceiling once the work was ended. He asked Bramante what was to happen when the painter reached the perforations, but the architect had no answer.

The matter was taken before the Pope, who ordered Michelangelo to build a scaffold of his own. Michelangelo created a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall, high up near the top of the windows. He lay on this scaffolding while he painted.

Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling he painted the ancestors of Christ. Above this he alternated male and female prophets, with Jonah
Jonah
Jonah is the name given in the Hebrew Bible to a prophet of the northern kingdom of Israel in about the 8th century BC, the eponymous central character in the Book of Jonah, famous for being swallowed by a fish or a whale, depending on translation...

 over the altar. On the highest section, Michelangelo painted nine stories from the Book of Genesis. He was originally commissioned to paint only 12 figures, the Apostles. He turned down the commission because he saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. The Pope offered to allow Michelangelo to paint biblical scenes of his own choice as a compromise. After the work was finished, there were more than 300. His figures showed the creation, Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 in the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

, and the Great Flood.

The painted area is about 40 m (131 ft) long by 13 m (43 ft) wide. This means that Michelangelo painted well over 5000 square feet (464.5 m²) of frescoes.

Last Judgment



The Last Judgment
The Last Judgment (Michelangelo)
The Last Judgment is a canonical fresco by the Italian Renaissance master Michelangelo executed on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City...

was painted by Michelangelo between 1535–1541, after the Sack of Rome
Sack of Rome (1527)
The Sack of Rome on 6 May 1527 was a military event carried out by the mutinous troops of Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor in Rome, then part of the Papal States...

 of 1527 by mercenary forces from the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, which effectively ended the Roman Renaissance, just before the Council of Trent
Council of Trent
The Council of Trent was the 16th-century Ecumenical Council of the Roman Catholic Church. It is considered to be one of the Church's most important councils. It convened in Trent between December 13, 1545, and December 4, 1563 in twenty-five sessions for three periods...

. The work was constructed on a grand scale, and spans the entire wall behind the altar of the Sistine Chapel. The Last Judgment is a depiction of the second coming of Christ and the Apocalypse
Apocalypse
An Apocalypse is a disclosure of something hidden from the majority of mankind in an era dominated by falsehood and misconception, i.e. the veil to be lifted. The Apocalypse of John is the Book of Revelation, the last book of the New Testament...

. The souls of humanity rise and descend to their fates as judged by Christ and his saintly entourage. The wall on which The Last Judgment is painted looms out slightly over the viewer as it rises, and is meant to be somewhat fearful and to instill piety and respect for God's power. In contrast to the other frescoes in the Chapel, the figures are heavily muscled and appear somewhat tortured—even the Virgin Mary at the center seems to be cowering before God.

The Last Judgment was an object of a bitter dispute between Cardinal Carafa and Michelangelo. Because he depicted naked figures, the artist was accused of immorality and obscenity. A censorship campaign (known as the "Fig-Leaf Campaign") was organized by Carafa and Monsignor Sernini (Mantua
Mantua
Mantua is a city and comune in Lombardy, Italy and capital of the province of the same name. Mantua's historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family, made it one of the main artistic, cultural and notably musical hubs of Northern Italy and the country as a whole...

's ambassador) to remove the frescoes. When the Pope's own Master of Ceremonies Biagio da Cesena said "it was mostly disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns," Michelangelo worked da Cesena's semblance into the scene as Minos
Minos
In Greek mythology, Minos was a king of Crete, son of Zeus and Europa. Every year he made King Aegeus pick seven men and seven women to go to Daedalus' creation, the labyrinth, to be eaten by The Minotaur. After his death, Minos became a judge of the dead in Hades. The Minoan civilization of Crete...

, judge of the underworld. It is said that when he complained to the Pope, the pontiff responded that his jurisdiction did not extend to hell, so the portrait would have to remain.

The genitalia in the fresco were later covered by the artist Daniele da Volterra
Daniele da Volterra
Daniele Ricciarelli , better known as Daniele da Volterra, was an Italian mannerist painter and sculptor.He is best remembered for his association, for better or worse, with the late Michelangelo. Several of Daniele's most important works were based on designs made for that purpose by Michelangelo...

, whom history remembers by the derogatory nickname "Il Braghettone" ("the breeches-painter").

Restoration and controversy





The Sistine Chapel's ceiling restoration began on 7 November 1984. The restoration complete, the chapel was re-opened to the public on 8 April 1994. The part of the restoration in the Sistine Chapel that has caused the most concern is the ceiling, painted by Michelangelo
Michelangelo
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni , commonly known as Michelangelo, was an Italian Renaissance painter, sculptor, architect, poet, and engineer who exerted an unparalleled influence on the development of Western art...

. The emergence of the brightly coloured Ancestors of Christ from the gloom sparked a reaction of fear that the processes being employed in the cleaning were too severe and removed the original intent of the artist.

The problem lies in the analysis and understanding of the techniques utilised by Michelangelo, and the technical response of the restorers to that understanding. A close examination of the frescoes of the lunette
Lunette
In architecture, a lunette is a half-moon shaped space, either filled with recessed masonry or void. A lunette is formed when a horizontal cornice transects a round-headed arch at the level of the imposts, where the arch springs. If a door is set within a round-headed arch, the space within the...

s convinced the restorers that Michelangelo worked exclusively in "buon fresco
Buon fresco
Buon fresco is a fresco painting technique in which alkaline resistant pigments, ground in water, are applied to plaster when it is still wet, as opposed to fresco-secco...

"; that is, the artist worked only on freshly laid plaster and each section of work was completed while the plaster was still in its fresh state. In other words, Michelangelo did not work "a secco
Fresco-secco
Fresco-secco is a fresco painting technique in which pigments ground in water are tempered using egg yolk or whole egg mixed with water which are applied to plaster that has been moistened to simulate fresh plaster. No white is used...

"; he did not come back later and add details onto the dry plaster.

The restorers, by assuming that the artist took a universal approach to the painting, took a universal approach to the restoration. A decision was made that all of the shadowy layer of animal glue and "lamp black", all of the wax, and all of the overpainted areas were contamination of one sort or another: smoke deposits, earlier restoration attempts, and painted definition by later restorers in an attempt to enliven the appearance of the work. Based on this decision, according to Arguimbau's critical reading of the restoration data that has been provided, the chemists of the restoration team decided upon a solvent that would effectively strip the ceiling down to its paint-impregnated plaster. After treatment, only that which was painted "buon fresco" would remain.

Quotes on Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel


See also

  • Italian Renaissance painting
    Italian Renaissance painting
    Italian Renaissance painting is the painting of the period beginning in the late 13th century and flourishing from the early 15th to late 16th centuries, occurring within the area of present-day Italy, which was at that time divided into many political areas...

  • The Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
    Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore
    The Papal Basilica of Saint Mary Major , known also by other names, is the largest Roman Catholic Marian church in Rome, Italy.There are other churches in Rome dedicated to Mary, such as Santa Maria in Trastevere, Santa Maria in Aracoeli, Santa Maria sopra Minerva, but the greater size of the...

    in Rome has another Sistine Chapel.

External links