The Vatican Palace II, The Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel is one of six chapels in the Vatican Palace.  It was built between 1475 and 1483 duringPope Sixtus IV della Rovere and designed by Giovannino de’ Dolci.  The artists who painted the walls were Sandro Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, and Luca Signorelli.  The subject matter to be painted was the biblical history of the world divided into three eras:  the time between the creation of the world and when Moses received the ten commandments, the time between the ten commandments and Christ’s birth, and the Christian era following Christ’s birth.  All the scenes were painted as frescos while the ceiling was painted blue with gold stars.

In 1508 Pope Julius II “requested” Michelangelo paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.  Michelangelo did not want to paint the Sistine Chapel ceiling.  He considered himself a sculptor, not a painter, and he had never painted using fresco technique prior to the Sistine Chapel.  Information that renders his work even more amazing when you consider the detail.

The ceiling dimensions measure 30 feet by 140 feet.  The ceiling is curved so that the center is just shy of 68 feet high.  This makes the amount of space to be painted around 5000 square feet.  Over this space he would paint nine scenes from the book of Genesis, the Creation of Even, The Temptation and Fall of Adam and Eve, and the Flood.  Surrounding these in a historical timeline are a variety of old testament prophets and ancestors of Christ–a total of 336 figures.  He also used a technique called pozzolana which uses lime, water and volcanic ash to create the “plaster”.

Michelangelo painted from 1508-1512.  He wrote a poem when he was finished, expressing his feelings about his work on the ceiling.  It’s short and worth the read–quite humorous as he describes the physical consequences of being upside-down for so long.

The Sistine Chapel is truly and amazing work of art, especially the ceiling, and especially when you consider it was painted by someone who didn’t really want to do it.

A small travel tip;  we went in August, and all the heads you see in the photo above show the crowds.  It was literally wall to wall people in the Sistine Chapel–shoulder to shoulder, packed with people.  The only time I’d ever seen anything like that was Jackson Square in New Orleans on New Years Eve.  We were told this is the heaviest tourist time for Rome.

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The Vatican Palace, Part I

We went to the Vatican as part of the speed tour, so I would do it again, but differently.  A tip from another traveler suggested that the end of the day, roughly two hours from closing is the best time to see the Vatican.  She said she got the tip from Rick Steve’s or Fodders travel books on Italy.  I had Rick Steve’s, so I must have missed that page.

Seeing the Vatican the way we did was a major deal, and not in a good way.  The line was unbelievable, and the same method once inside of practically sprinting through was annoying to say the least.  The only respite came when a ten year old in our group (who did NOT want to be there) ran off.  The whole place came to a stand still while all the guards and police searched for him.  I would not recommend this tour for kids that age unless they really like historical Rome, but if you do, rest assured, they have an amazing system in place for finding lost children.  Not a single person was allowed to move ’till he was found–quite a feat considering how many people were in there.

The Vatican Palace was built between 498AD and 514AD during the reign of Pope Symmachus on the left bank of the Tiber River in Rome.  It contains some 11,000–yes thousand, rooms on 13.5 acres and in 2003 the property was worth an estimated $1.21 billion not counting the art.  I can’t imagine the dusting and vacuuming.

The Vatican is now used mostly for religious and administrative meetings.  There are many priceless works of art housed within the Vatican and it’s five museums; The Museo Pio-Clementino, the Galleria Chiaramonti, the Braccio Nuovo, the Egyptian Museum, and the Etruscan Museum.  Some of the art is in the form of sculptures, like the ones below.

And some in amazingly detailed paintings on the walls and ceilings.

The museums within, and the art they contain, and the art on the building’s walls and ceilings are breathtakingly amazing.  So amazing that words cannot do them justice.