Updated: Feb 4, 2022
The Sistine Chapel or as called in Italian – Cappella Sistina is a must visit a site and also a sight to behold for the 5 million people who visit this place every year! The beauty of the frescoes never fails to mesmerize the guests! Irrespective of how many pictures you see, when you see this place in real, you’ll be awestruck! And here are 10 facts that tell you how wonderful it is – as a building and as a story!
1. Michelangelo’s frescoes
There are tons of works inside the chapel, all equally beautiful but there is one that is mesmerizingly beautiful and those are the ones created by Michelangelo. He created 2 frescoes in the chapel, which tell the story of Christ and Moses.
2. I don’t want to take the commission!
Considering how wonderful these frescoes are today and are considered the world’s brilliant masterpieces, it comes as a shock when you know that Michelangelo was not at all interested in doing these pieces. He believed that he was not a good painter, rather he was a great sculptor but he did take it on a commission from the Pope because it was just unheard of denying such a request.
3. Was this commission a trap?
Initially, Michelangelo thought that this commission was a trap set up by his rivals because they wanted to see him fail. Later he found out that it was not a trap, rather a commission from the pope!
4. Duration for the frescoes
The ceiling frescoes took Michelangelo 4 years to complete and they covered a total of 12,000 square feet. There is a theory that says he made them while lying down, rather he actually made them whilst standing upright. Now this theory is nothing more than an urban legend!
5. Paint! And then repaint!
Michelangelo had to repaint a large portion of his work because a portion of it became moldy a year after he started painting it! He did tell the pope in the beginning how he wasn’t a good painter but the pope didn’t refuse. Today when you go and visit the place, you will be able to feel the stress!
6. Figleaves and the loincloth
In the 1560s, Pope Pius IV ordered the nude images in Michelangelo’s painting to have fig leaves and loincloths to be placed strategically to hide their presumed blushes. The piece went under restoration between 1980 and 1999 when layers of grime were removed and it was painted brighter, as a result of which, the fig leaves and the loincloth was removed.
7. Can we see human anatomy in the painting?
In the panel where we see God and Adam, and the angels surrounding God, there is a shape that is the same as the human brain. This is thought to be placed intentionally to show it as a demonstration where God gives intelligence to humans. Others who visit the chapel and see the frescoes have said that there are more hidden pieces of the human anatomy hidden at different places in the frescoes.
8. Does it keep the chapel safe?
The building was built in 1475 and was designed with keeping the defense system of the chapel in mind. The chapel, although was created for worship the design had some brilliantly strong walls installed making it quite thick and strong, which were then used to protect the Vatican against any attacks whatsoever.
9. Papal conclave?
Built-in the 1970s under Pope Sixtus, from who this chapel gets its name, Sistine Chapel is more than just a popular tourist destination. Rather it serves various functions, beginning in 1492, its simple brick building has hosted numerous papal conclaves. During this time, a lot of cardinals gather here to vote for the new pope! There is also a special chimney installed through which smoke is released when no candidate gets 2/3rd majority of votes, meaning no candidate has won.
10. Michelangelo wrote a poem about the misery he faced
In 1509, an increasingly uncomfortable Michelangelo described the physical strain of the Sistine Chapel to his friend and also wrote about it in a poem. “I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture,” he wrote in a poem that was surely somewhat tongue-in-cheek. He went on to complain that his “stomach’s squashed under my chin,” that his “face makes a fine floor for droppings,” that his “skin hangs loose below me” and that his “spine’s all knotted from folding myself over.” He ended his affirmation with the fact that he should not have taken the job! “I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.” He said.
The irony here is that he was so miserable that he painted this piece but it is today renowned as the most amazingly magnificent masterpiece in the whole wide world! Now you know what mysteries lie behind this masterpiece!