Sistine Chapel│Crowded, Chaotic but Worth a Visit
The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, is one of the most influential artworks of all time. It is without a doubt a foundational work of Renaissance Art. Painted directly on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the masterpiece depicts key scenes from the Book of Genesis, of which The Creation of Adam is the best known. This complex artwork includes a huge variety of human bodies, both clothed and nude, and these allowed Michelangelo to demonstrate his skill in creating a huge variety of poses for the human figure. Overall it has provided an enormously influential pattern book of models for other artists ever since.
This painting was first unveiled to the public in 1512 and continues to impress the thousands of pilgrims and tourists from around the world who visit the Chapel every day. We came to the Sistine Chapel after walking through a number of hallways in the Vatican Museums.
Interesting Fact: Michelangelo Didn’t Paint Lying Down
The film The Agony and the Ecstacy, depicts Michelangelo, played by Charlton Heston, painting the frescoes on his back, but Michelangelo didn’t actually work in this position. Instead, he had constructed a unique scaffolding system sturdy enough to hold workers and materials. Incredibly, it was high enough that Mass could still be celebrated below. The scaffolding curved at its top, mimicking the curvature of the ceiling’s vault. Michelangelo often had to bend backward and paint over his head — an awkward position that caused permanent damage to his vision.
Above, Sneaking a selfie with the ceiling above us. We did also take the first picture of this post, but let me tell you… NO PICTURES OR VIDEO ARE ALLOWED!! This is up being little rebels, even though people around us felt NO shame to hold up their cameras, and even used their flash!
When we got into the Sistine Chapel it was SO FULL that there was barely any room to move. People were talking, and using flash photography, and acting like plain jerks. To make matters worse, every five minutes, the guards would SHOUT, “No talking, no photos, no video”. It almost felt like we were being robbed of what we thought would be a epic moment. We had, after all, just walked through halls and halls of art displays to get to this Sistine Chapel. We wished that, just for a single moment, we could shut everyone up, silence those guards, and whack those stupid selfie sticks out of people’s hands.
We went to the back of the hall and found a quieter area where we could sit down. This was a good decision.
In those moments we were able to block out the annoyances… and just TAKE IT ALL IN!
So Why No Photography is Allowed in the Sistine Chapel?
Vatican officials wanted to have a comprehensive restoration of Michelangelo’s art in the chapel done, but the price tag for such an endeavor caused them to seek outside assistance to fund the project. The highest bidder was Nippon Television Network Corporation of Japan: they gave massive $4.2 million. In return for funding the renovation, Nippon TV received the exclusive rights to photography and video of the restored art.
Interestingly enough, the ban on photography within the chapel remains instituted despite the waning of the terms of Nippon’s deal. However, given the damage that can be caused by thousands of cameras’ flashes going off in the chapel each day, it’s no surprise that Vatican officials decided not to end the ban when Nippon’s contract expired.
Despite the crowds and chaotic shuffling, we were glad that we were able to experience the Sistine Chapel. It is truly a breathtaking artwork.