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Michelangelo Sistine Chapel Ceiling

The Sistine Chapel ceiling is considered the greatest work of art done by one person.

It is considered Michelangelo's masterpiece, even though sculpture was his usual art form.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling Closeup

The Sistine Chapel is an amazing sight to behold. Seeing it will be a highlight of any visit to Rome Italy

The most famous frescos are certainly Michelangelo Sistine Chapel ceiling and his fresco of the The Last Judgement on the altar wall. These are the largest works of art planned and carried out my one man.

Sistine Chapel History

The chapel in Vatican City Rome was named after Pope Sixtus IV who commissioned that it be built. It was built by Giovanni de' Dolci between 1475 and 1483 as a private chapel for the pope and still is used today for the gathering of cardinals when a new pope is elected.

Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to do the ceiling in 1508 and it took until 1512 to complete. He used the curves of the vault to make the huge figures come to life and almost seem 3 dimensional.

Pope Paul II commissioned Michelangelo to do the Last Judgement 23 years later in 1535. He completed this amazing fresco in 1541.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling Diagram

Beginning from the altar end, the large Sistine Chapel ceiling frescos depict:

  • The seperation of light from darkness
  • The creation of sun, moon and planets
  • Creation of Man
  • Creation of Woman
  • The Fall
  • The Sacrifice of Noah
  • The Deluge
  • The Drunkenness of Noah
Sistine Chapel Ceiling diagram

On either side of these frescos are seven of the prophets of Israel and five woman prophets of the Classical world or sybils who propesied the birth of Christ and in the triangles are the ancestors of Christ.

Sistine Chapel Side Wall Frescos

The side wall frescos depict the life of Christ on the right when facing the altar and the life of Moses on the left. On the pillars between the windows are the figures of 28 popes. Pope Sixtus IV commissioned famous artists Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Rosselli, Peerugino, Pinturicchio, Signorelli and di Cosimo in around 1482 to do these and the remaining frescos in the chapel.

It took about 11 months for them to complete their work. One of the most important is Perugino's Christ giving the keys to Peter....note the Arch of Constantine in the background.

Sistine Chapel Ceiling Perugino's Keys to Peter

Visiting the Sistine Chapel

  • The only way to see the Sistine Chapel is to buy a ticket for the Vatican Museums
  • Current cost of the Vatican Museums is 14 euros except the last Sunday of the month when it is free (and packed!)
  • Current hours are 8:30-17:30 Monday-Sat., it is closed many of the Catholic holy days. Check current Vatican Museum hours and holidays.

If you follow any color coded Vatican Museum tour....there are four of them....you will end up in the Sistine chapel.

Pope John Paul II said about Michelangelo's masterpiece....

It seems that Michelangelo, in his own way, allowed himself to be guided by the evocative words of the Book of Genesis which, as regards the creation of the human being, male and female, reveals: 'The man and his wife were both naked, yet they felt no shame'. The Sistine Chapel is precisely - if one may say so - the sanctuary of the theology of the human body. In witnessing to the beauty of man created by God as male and female, it also expresses in a certain way, the hope of a world transfigured, the world inaugurated by the Risen Christ.

Check out the Vatican's wonderful virtual tour of the Sistine chapel.


Tour of the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peter's Bascilica

Includes a Free Audio Tour of Rome!

Sistine Chapel Ceiling Creation of Sun

One of the best ways to see the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is on a Rome sightseeing tour. This tour includes a time slot at the Vatican Museums so you won't have to wait in a long line. The English speaking guide takes you through the Museums of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel, St. Peter's Square and St. Peters Bascilica. Check out details of this tour that includes the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.



Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel

Michelangelo was not a painter--he was a sculptor. The noble artist reluctantly took on the daunting task that would damage his neck, back, and eyes (if you have ever strained to admire the real thing, you know). Andrew Graham-Dixon tells the story behind the famous painted ceiling over which the great artist painfully toiled for four long years. Linking Michelangelo's personal life to his work on the Sistine Chapel, Graham-Dixon describes Michelangelo's unique depiction of the Book of Genesis, tackles ambiguities in the work, and details the painstaking work that went into Michelangelo's magnificent creation. Complete with rich, full-color illustrations and Graham-Dixon's articulate narrative, "Michelangelo and the Sistine Chapel" is an indispensable and significant piece of art criticism. It humanizes this heavenly masterpiece in a way that every art enthusiast, student, and professional can understand and appreciate.


The amazing Sistine Chapel Ceiling and other frescos are a must see on a Rome vacation.

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