Exploring the Sistine Chapel

One of Michelangelo’s most famous works, these frescoes are full of colourful biblical characters depicting stories from the book of Genesis. Visit for pure amazement or to marvel at the hidden meanings behind this masterpiece 

 

We could be here all day discussing the amazing masterpieces, museums and collections housed in Vatican City (or Holy See), but this humble post is dedicated to one of the most spectacular works of art: the Sistine Chapel.

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Situated in the Apostolic Palace, which is also the official residence of the pope, the world-renowned chapel is famous for interiors decorated in the fresco technique and The Last Judgment by Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni.

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The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV della Rovere, who requested the old Cappella Magna be restored between 1477 and 1480.

Michelangelo was entrusted to alter decorations to the chapel in 1508 who painted the ceiling and, on the upper part of the walls, the lunettes.

Finished in October 1512, the Sistine Chapel was inaugurated on the Feast of All Saints (1 November), with a solemn mass.

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The nine central panels depict the Stories of Genesis: creation, the fall of man, the flood and the rebirth of mankind with Noah’s family.

 TIP: During the night openings, as night falls, there is the ritual of the aperitif in the surroundings of the courtyard of the Pine Cone.

Opening times and prices

Monday – Saturday
9.00am – 6.00pm
Last entry at 4.00pm

Every last Sunday of the month

(Provided this does not coincide with Easter Sunday, 29 June Sts Peter and Paul, Christmas Day and 26 December Feast of St Stephen)

9.00am – 2.00pm

Final entry at 12.30pm

Click here for planned closures and openings.

There are several tickets you can purchase:

  • Archaeological Areas: eg, Little Pompeii
  • Pontifical villas and gardens: eg, the Pope’s summer residence and The Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo
  • Museums and collections: eg, Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.

The entrance fee for the Sistine Chapel by itself is €16.00. The entrance is free the last Sunday of each month.

Ones with the Sistine Chapel include:

  • Open tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel: Full ticket: €17.00.
  • Open tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel with Vatican Museums audioguide:

Full ticket + Vatican Museums audioguide: €24.00.

  • Night open tour of the museums and Sistine Chapel with happy hour at the Vatican Museums: full ticket + happy hour: €34.00.

Click here for more ticket options.

TIP: You can by a ‘skip the line’ ticket’. This full entry ticket costs € 17.00 + 4.00 (when booking on the official Vatican Museums website).

 How to get there

Metro: Cipro-Musei Vaticani is the closest stop to the chapel and museums.

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Travel on line A (orange). This line runs from the northwest to southeast, from Battistini to Anagnina.

Click here for the Metro map.

Walking: Nearby places are St Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City and St Peter’s Square.

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What to look out for

Entrance wall

This wall has frescos of the two final episodes of the cycles of Moses and Christ: the resurrection of Christ and the discussion over the body of Moses. Popes are portrayed high up and there are false drapes in the lower register.

 Ceiling

Michelangelo completed the first half of the ceiling – from the entrance wall to the Creation of Eve –  in August 1510.

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The artists showcased nine central stories illustrating episodes of the Genesis. Figures of nudes holding medallions with texts taken from the Book of Kings sit on the sides. Meanwhile, 12 prophets and sibyls are seated on monumental thrones.

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The large spandrels placed in the corners of the ceiling narrate four episodes of the miraculous salvation of the people of Israel. These represent the presence of God and the renewal of the Redemption.

The creation of Adam

The creation of Adam is the best-known image from the Sistine Chapel and is located in the central part of the vault. It represents the story from Genesis in which God gives life to Adam.

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 TIP: Look out for the image that many believe represents the human brainstem in the panel showing God at the beginning of creation.

The last judgement

Painted during 1536 – 1541, the composition portrays the figure of Christ, captured in the moment preceding that when the verdict of the Last Judgement is spoken.

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In the centre of the lower section sit angels of the Apocalypse who are wakening the dead to the sound of long trumpets. The risen (on the left) recover their bodies as they ascend towards heaven (showcasing the resurrection of the flesh), while on the right, angels and devils fight over the damned falling hell.

The north wall

The panels show the events of Christ, from his baptism ending with the last supper and the passion: the agony in the garden, the arrest of Jesus and the crucifixion.

In the lunettes, Michelangelo painted the Forefathers of Christ – the forerunners of his coming and the redemption.

The South wall

The panels depict the stories of Moses. The Old Testament cycle begins with the journey of Moses in Egypt and the last panel shows a fresco of the legacy and death of Moses when he is already within sight of the promised land.

The East Wall

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Checking out C & J.

 

 

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