Vatican Museums


Musei Vaticani_1
Viale Vaticano
Every day except Sunday 9:00-16:30. Admission fee.
2016 Calendar with special openings at www.vatican.va


The Sistine Chapel was built by Pope Sixtus IV (1471-1484) in the older core of the Apostolic Palace. In 1481 the most famous central Italian fresco painters had decorated the walls of the lower register with the stories of Moses opposite the Stories of Christ.
Commissioned by Pope Julius II (1503-1513), between 1508 and 1512, Michelangelo painted the ceiling, considered the most magnificent frescos of western art, which he conceived as a colossal architectural structure populated by monumental figures, virile nudes and figurative scenes.
The painting layout links the various sections and divides them into three superimposed registers. The first is made up of nine panels in the central area of the vault containing the Stories of Genesis, from the Creation to the Drunkenness of Noah; the second register comprises the thrones of the Prophets and Sibyls in the spandrels, and the third by sails and lunettes depicting the Ancestors of Christ.

Foto Servizio Fotografico dei Musei Vaticani – ©Musei Vaticani

Ekta 18393

Between 1536 and 1541 for the new Pope Paul III (1534-1549), Michelangelo painted the Last Judgment on the wall of the Sistine Chapel behind the altar, a dramatic mirror of the tragic situation in which the Church, split between demands for reform and intentions of revenge, was heading.
The great fresco is divided into five areas; on the left (resurrected and ascending), on the right (rejected and damned), an upper zone (angels and elected) and a lower zone (suspended and reprobate). In the centre, the main subjects, Christ – angels – the mouth of Hell, are found. The supreme act of the history of mankind comes from the gesture of Christ the Judge, who is both angry and compassionate at the same time, resulting in the dramatic movement of the mass of the figures, the upward pace of those who are forgiven and who rise to the top and the whirling descent of the damned, thrown in Hell.

Foto Servizio Fotografico dei Musei Vaticani – ©Musei Vaticani


The great altarpiece, completed by 1604, was for the church of Santa Maria in Vallicella. Plundered by the French in 1797, once returned to Italy (1815) the painting was transferred to its present site. It marks a significant departure from the gentle paintings for private commissions and is an expression of the artist’s mature style. The contrast between light and shadow become dramatic in the portrayal of this episode of the Passion of Christ. The plastic and monumental power is enhanced by the tight group of people, marked by an increasing rhythm from top to bottom, with the gestures of Mary Cheofa raising her arms evoking the cross, the Virgin who stretches out her hand, and Christ below who touches the stone of the tomb. Beneath, symbolizing Christ himself, the “cornerstone” of the Church, grows a green plant, symbol of resurrection, in contrast to a dry plant placed in the opposite corner.

Foto Servizio Fotografico dei Musei Vaticani – ©Musei Vaticani

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Viale Vaticano, Roma, Italy


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