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The Sistine Chapel: the most famous chapel in the world

The Sistine Chapel is the inner sanctum of the art that keeps the Vatican. In Saint Peter’s Basilica or in the Vatican Museums there are countless masterpieces of painting, sculpture, goldsmithing… of any artistic discipline. But none is capable of reaching the level or fame of the Sistine Chapel, simply the most famous chapel in the world.

The Sistine Chapel: great work of Michelangelo

It is extraordinarily difficult to decide which is the best work of Michelangelo Buonarroti. He was an exceptional creator who made wonderful sculptures like his David or the Moses and who, at the same time, became a great urban planner, partly designing the heart of the current Saint Peter’s Square in the Vatican.

And if it was not enough, made wonderful pictorial works, almost all of them murals. But of all that work as a painter none reaches the quality of his frescoes in the Sistine Chapel.

Due to its volume, its location, the time he invested in it and the influence it has had throughout the history of art, the Sistine Chapel is perhaps Michelangelo’s greatest work.

In fact, has become the metaphor or reference for any artistic creation. Notice when we write, for example, that the Altamira cave is the ‘Sistine Chapel’ of cave art or when it was said that Miquel Barceló had painted the contemporary ‘Sistine Chapel’ at the UN headquarters in the Swiss city of Geneva.

What is the Sistine Chapel used for?

A little later we are going to talk again about the mural paintings that Michelangelo made in the Sistine Chapel. But now we are going to tell you what this space is used for. The most common use you can already imagine. It is one of the biggest attractions of the visit to the Vatican Museums.

An entry that accompanied by a tour of the basilica and that delights everyone who does it. During the visit works from antiquity are contemplated, as well as medieval creations and other geniuses of the Renaissance such as the great Raphael, among many other artists.

For everyone who visits the Vatican, one of the most anticipated moments is when they enter the Sistine Chapel. But it may happen that access is not allowed. If so, it is very possible that the Pope has passed away and all the cardinals have to choose the new Pontiff. The conclave meets, precisely, in the Sistine Chapel.

The two works by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel

As we have advanced, now we are going to talk in a little more detail about Michelangelo’s paintings. These are the result of two different moments of work. First, between the years 1508 and 1512 he made the frescoes of the vault. Meanwhile, the commission for the wall with The final judgement he received it in 1535. Let’s look at one and the other.

The vault

In the vault of the Sistine Chapel, the artist paints various biblical episodes. To do this, an entire architecture is invented that compartmentalizes the space and serves to frame the different scenes. There are the famous Adan creation either The expulsion from Paradise, in addition to other episodes such as David against Goliath.

But more than the narration, what is really impressive is how he has painted each and every one of those scenes. More than paintings, they look like sculptures due to the powerful anatomies they present. And, although we see the characters several tens of meters above our heads, the artist is capable of transferring all the force and vigor of those stories to us.

The final judgement

More than 20 years after that youthful artistic feat, Michelangelo received a new commission: to paint the chancel of the Sistine Chapel. And here, already being a more mature artist, he decided not to compartmentalize the space and took advantage of the entire wall to recreate the most famous Last Judgment scene ever painted.

It was an impressive and revolutionary work in its time, among other things because originally the artist presented almost all the characters nude. In his view, this was a symbol of purity.

However, this did not convince the high religious authorities and they ended up commissioning another painter to cover up the sexual organs of the figures. And this is further proof that even the greatest artists in history and Creations as great as the Sistine Chapel can sometimes be misunderstood.

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