Painting the heavens
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famed structures in Vatican City, and its ceiling is one of the world’s major masterpieces - not only of the High Renaissance, but in the entire history of art.
It was designed and painted by Michelangelo, who spent four years on a specially designed scaffold about 68 feet above ground, later adding his painting of The Last Judgement to the chapel wall. Michelangelo created the figures much larger than life, with the intention that when you gaze from below they appear as if you could reach out and touch them.
The hands of God
Most of us have seen reproductions of the iconic image of God giving life to Adam in the clouds, but nothing beats the real thing. Other striking scenes depicted from the Book of Genesis include the downfall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and God in the act of Creation. The astounding composition is peopled with saints, prophets and angels everywhere you look, and also features mind-bending trompe l’oeil details that look like architectural mouldings.
The Last Judgement contains some more sinister figures, including a gruesome image of a soul in Heaven holding a the flayed skin of a man - rumoured to be a self-portrait - and the donkey-eared Minos, the judge of the Underworld, who was given the face of the Pope’s official Biagio da Cesena in retaliation for his calling Michelangelo’s work ‘disgraceful.’
You must remember to make sure to have your shoulders covered when entering the Chapel, and no photos, videos or talking are allowed - though you will find many people breaking this last rule, to the chagrin of the attendants. The chapel is located within the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican but must be accessed through the Vatican Museums
. Do not miss this visionary spectacle - the crowds will be worth it.