Monday, September 15, 2008
So much more than a ceiling
The Sistine Chapel is so much more than a ceiling. It is dripping with the handywork of Italy's masters from start to finish. The walls are covered by not only Michelangelo (obviously the ceiling, but also the Altar wall with his Last Judgement), but also with Perugino, Rosselli, Botticelli, Signorelli, and Ghirlandaio.
The chapel was built by Sixtus IV and is named after him. His nephew, Pope Julius II, went on to put on the ceiling with the help of Michelangelo. Pope Paul III asked Michelangelo to paint the Altar wall.
Sixtus IV wasn't getting along with Florence and the Medici too well. By a show of peace and putting it behind them Florence and Lorenzo sent a team of his, or rather, the city's masters to decorate the wall of the chapel. Did they ever!
One wall is decorated with the life of Jesus. The other wall is painted with the life of Moses. They are glorious panels that are worthy of a visit alone. Throw in Michelangelo's work and well...you have the Sistine Chapel.
Michelangelo's ceiling is the book of Genesis painted with prophets and ancestors of Christ. He also decided to add 10 shields in alternating sections with another biblical story line. Oh, for good measure this was his first real commission in fresco never having done one of this magnitude previously. He also painted the stories of David & Goliath, Judith and Holofernes, the Crucifixion of Hanaan, and the Brazen Serpent. His Last Judgement shows Jesus in a whole new light. He painted popes too; starting with Saint Peter and ending with Pope Felix I.
When in Rome you must visit the Sistine Chapel. Don't rush and don't just look up. Be sure to enjoy the walls. You won't be disappointed.