The Sistene Chapel - a true work of art! by Veena Paul


When asked which building I admire the most and why, it is quite difficult to choose one when they are so many buildings that take your breath away either because of their glorious architecture or the cultural wealth they embody. I am going to choose to write about the Sistine Chapel – as it really is a work of art!


The Sistine Chapel is a large chapel in the Vatican City. It is renowned for its Renaissance art, especially the ceiling painted by Michelangelo, and attracts more than 5 million visitors each year. It was erected in 1473–81 by the architect Giovanni dei Dolci for Pope Sixtus IV (hence its name).


The Sistine Chapel is a rectangular brick building with six arched windows on each of the two main (or side) walls and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The chapel’s exterior is drab and unadorned, but its interior walls and ceiling are decorated with frescoes by many Florentine Renaissance masters. On the outside there is nothing really spectacular however the inside is totally a different story.


The most important artworks in the chapel are the frescoes by Michelangelo on the ceiling and on the west wall behind the altar. The frescoes on the ceiling, collectively known as the Sistine Ceiling, were commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 and were painted by Michelangelo in the years from 1508 to 1512. They depict incidents and personages from the Old Testament. The Last Judgment fresco on the west wall was painted by Michelangelo for Pope Paul III in the period from 1534 to 1541. These two gigantic frescoes are among the greatest achievements of Western painting.


A 10-year-long cleaning and restoration of the Sistine Ceiling completed in 1989 removed several centuries’ accumulation of dirt, smoke, and varnish. Cleaning and restoration of the Last Judgment was completed in 1994. Michelangelo spent four years of his life perched on scaffolding with his brush in hand. Michelangelo’s Masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel’s frescoed ceiling has held up remarkably well in the five centuries since its completion.


The Sistine Chapel is more than just Vatican City’s most popular tourist destination. In fact, it serves a crucial religious function. Beginning in 1492, the simple brick building has hosted numerous papal conclaves, during which cardinals gather to vote on a new pope.

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