Interesting facts about the Sistine Chapel

sistine chapel

The Sistine Chapel is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City. Originally known as the Cappella Magna, the chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored it between 1477 and 1480.

The chapel has the same dimensions as the Temple of Solomon, as described in the Old Testament.

The chapel is 40.23 meters (132 feet) long, 13.40 meters (44 feet) wide, and 20.70 meters (68 feet) high.

Before work started on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1508, it had been adorned with a blue night sky with golden stars, painted by the Umbrian artist Piero Matteo d’Amelia.

When Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he wasn’t very pleased, as his main artistic profession was to sculpt. It was with much displeasure that he undertook the role.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling, painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512, is a cornerstone work of High Renaissance art.

Central to the ceiling decoration are nine scenes from the Book of Genesis of which The Creation of Adam is the best known.The complex design includes several sets of individual figures, both clothed and nude, which allowed Michelangelo to fully demonstrate his skill in creating a huge variety of poses for the human figure, and have provided an enormously influential pattern book of models for other artists ever since.

creation of adam

Regarding the ‘The Creation of Adam’ fresco, the white-bearded portrayal of God was painted at last after four years of hard work. This was because Michelangelo wanted to temper his evolving fresco technique before dealing with the main subject matter of the scene. Now in terms of history, this work of art was finished on November of 1512 AD, and the genius artist thought at last that his painstaking job was done.

However, Michelangelo had to return again after 22 long years (in 1535 AD) to complete his other masterpiece inside the chapel – ‘The Last Judgment’; this time on a commission from a different pope, Paul III Farnese. Historically, these 22 years saw quite a few political and military upheavals in Rome and the Vatican, namely the disastrous Sacking of Rome by the mercenary forces of the Holy Roman Empire in 1527 AD (during which Sistine Chapel was harmed).

the last judgment michelangelo

Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in a standing position.To reach the chapel’s ceiling, Michelangelo designed his own scaffold, a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall near the top of the windows, rather than being built up from the floor.

Christianity is the only Abrahamic faith that lets people give God a face, and one of the people who portrayed the lasting image of God is Michelangelo. He was by no means the first to attribute the older man semblance of God the Father, but his greying, bearded man became the archetypal representation of God since.


Saint Bartholomew, one of the apostles features rather uniquely within the composition of the Last Judgement. Saint Bartholomew in fact holds the skin of what we believe is a self portrait of Michelangelo himself.

There are also wall paintings by several leading painters of the late 15th century including Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Pietro Perugino, and a set of large tapestries by Raphael, the whole illustrating much of the doctrine of the Catholic Church.

The chapel is more than an artistic masterpiece; it is a place of crucial religious activity. Since 1492, the chapel has been the site where the College of Cardinals gathers to elect a new pope. The chapel has a special chimney that is used to broadcast the cardinals’ voting status. White smoke indicates that a new pope has been elected, while black smoke signals that no candidate has received a two-thirds majority.

The Telegraph estimated that 25,000 people visit the Sistine Chapel every day, which adds up to about 5 million people a year. Considering the entry fee, this means that the Sistine Chapel alone pulls in an annual income of 80 million Euros per year for Vatican City.