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In this article, we explore the Sistine Chapel, one of the main event in the itinerary of many tourists from all over the world.
The Chapel, located inside the Apostolic Palace, and attracts an incredible amount of people from around the Globe, on a daily basis. It’s frescos, the altar, and the monumental ceiling, are a gem not only religiously, but also historically and artistically. Sit along one of the walls, and just take in all the beauty. We guarantee you will be awestruck. Because it really does leave you speechless: the intricacy behind a true work of art that connects you with a higher power.
Let’s start by saying that the Sistine Chapel is named after Pope Sixtus 4th, whom is responsible for its early restorations between 1473 and 1481. From that moment on, the Chapel was bound to be dedicated, inside the Vatican City life, to the celebration of the acts and papal ceremonies.
For the grand restorations the Pope has summoned the most illustrious renaissance artists.
For the historical moment of the Renaissance-era, the artists who answered the call were: Sandro Botticelli, Luca Signorelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio and the Perugino.
These artists were in charge of the frescos on the walls of the Sistine Chapel: a series of panels representing the life of Moses (on the walls on the left) and the life of Jesus Christ (on the walls on the right). Along with the protagonists from the Old Testament, the panel portray men from back at the time and every Pope who sat on the throne of Peter, up until then.
The paintings were all finished in 1482 and in occasion of the Holy Assumption, Pope Sixtus 4th celebrated mass there for the first time, consecrating the beautiful Sistine Chapel to the Virgin Mary.
On the death of Sixtus the 4th, the new Pope elected was his nephew, Giulio the 2nd della Rovere, also called “the warrior Pope” because of his vengeful spirit, his thirst for power and warmonger nature. He was even often the one to lead the army in battles.
When you prepare to visit the Sistine Chapel, you will notice that the connection of this place with the famous Michelangelo is quite strong.
It all started in 1505, when Pope Giulio 2nd lead Michelangelo to Rome and to whom he commissioned a majestic tomb.
But the two had opposing thoughts and their both rebellious nature would eventually reduce their relations to a certain (quite unholy) curse word, in a very Italian fashion, the artist screamed right at the Pope’s face, before making return to his homeland in Florence.
Meanwhile the Sistine Chapel was severely damaged due to the structure’s instability, reporting several cracks, because of which the frescos on the ceiling (that were a “simple” beautiful and enormous starred sky at the time) needed to be completely redone. Obviously the Pope immediately though of Michelangelo to take the restorations in hand, but he did need quite a bit of convincing to do, for obvious reasons.
In fact, Michelangelo declined the Pope’s invitations several times, even mentioning the fact that he was not at all interested in painting something that resembled nothing less than a roof of a barn, to him. He was talking about the Sistine Chapel.
Luckily for the history of humanity, the artist accepted in the end…And starting painting the Ceiling between 1508 and 1512.
The Artist wasn’t pleased by his job in the beginning. In fact, he declined the Pope’s requests at first, not only for their differences, but because it was extremely challenging. A work of gigantic proportions. And he was also convinced that his colleagues at the time, motivated the Pope to make sure he would accept the Chapel’s renovations, only because they wanted Michelangelo to fail.
The technique used to paint the frescos, didn’t allow mistakes or setbacks. And the painters had to work rapidly, because the fresco technique implied the use of fresh stucco to allow the colors to crystalize once the painting was dry, which happened very quickly. So once they started, there was no turning back. It was very hard work. And the surface that Michelangelo was able to cover is around 460 square meters, which is an outstanding accomplishment. Even if physically exhausting.
In fact, he once wrote his friend Giovanni da Pistoia, in 1509, telling him that his works on the Sistine Chapel were taking a toll on him, physically and mentally.
As he wrote ironically in one of his poems “I’m already suffocating in this torture” and continued saying that his stomach was squeezed under his beard, his face was the perfect palette for paint, his skin was melting underneath him and his spine was tied into knots.
He concluded that he had to change his day job: “I am not in the right place-I’m not a painter”.
But Michelangelo’s works on the Sistine Chapel took place in different periods in time: like The Universal Judgement on the walls behind the altar. This was painted only after he painted the ceilings, between 1536 and 1541 for the Popes Clemente 7th and Paul 3rd.
The Area dedicated to the Universal Judgement was “unveiled” on October 31st 1541, leaving everybody speechless. But not for long. It seems that the beautiful painting wasn’t at all appealing to the moralists who found the frescoes obscene. Possibly because the fresco included hundreds of nudes. The accusations of heresy and obscenity were so strong that they forced Michelangelo to take a step back from the Holy Office for a few years.
Only after Michelangelo’s death the Council of Trento ordered in 1563 that all the nudes painted in the Judgement were to be covered. Daniele da Volterra was commissioned the work, and his job consisted of covering the men’s obscenity with undergarments. From that moment on Daniele da Volterra was known as the “Bragotte”, literally means undergarments.
He was the man in charge of painting underwear on the people in the painting!
Daniele da Volterra was also a student and admire of Michelangelo, so he learned from the master all the techniques to use for these type of frescos. To paint the underwear, he used a method that consisted in dry tempera, leaving the original painting intact and undamaged underneath.
While the scene of Holy Biagio and Caterina were chiseled completely, because the position they were placed in was found unacceptable.
In 1994 a massive restoration was necessary, because of centuries of candle smoke and incense that attacked the walls of the Sistine Chapel. And the nudes were revealed once more. But the restoration supervisors decided to leave a few figures in undergarment, as testimony of the mid 1500s Counter-Reformation.
One of the many curiosities about the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s work, is how he changed the representation of God: before then, He was portrayed in a Hand, the Hand of God, that breaks through the clouds. Thanks to Michelangelo, God was represented for the very first time in the Sistine Chapel in a human form, a muscular body to highlight His Power and a long white beard, some say that it recalls the Greek God Zeus.
Another curiosity is that from the 1870s to this day, the Sistine Chapel is designated to the election of the new Pope, where the Cardinals gather to cast their vote. And once the new Pope is made, he is conducted in the Crying Room, a small room behind the Universal Judgement. Fun fact about this room, it is called crying room because it is traditionally where the elected Pope gathers his thoughts and allows himself to cry, tears of joy of course.
The Sistine Chapel is included in the Vatican Museums’ itinerary. That’s why we always recommend a professional guide for this experience.
Visit the Sistine Chapel with a private guide and it would be like the cherry on the cake. The highlight of your trip. You will walk through numerous halls of the Vatican, filled with beautiful artifacts, sculptures and Masterpieces from every era. And at the end of the itinerary, you will finally reach the beautiful Sistine Chapel. It will be highlight of your day.
The benefit of a guide includes many things, the incredible explanations, the most interesting facts and history and also a great guide to walk through the museums vast halls and rooms without risking to lose yourself. If you are considering a morning tour, you could enjoy having breakfast inside the Museums, for an extra special treat.
Visit the Sistine Chapel to learn all about the beautiful structure, when it was painted and other curiosities. A day to remember.
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This special all-inclusive tour of Rome is a MUST: A VIP Tour of Rome and Vatican Rome is a remarkable city. There is so much to do and see here and adding the Vatican to the itinerary, makes this private tour all the more special. And you want to make sure to cover every possible site during your cruise stop in Civitavecchia. For a true, private VIP tour of Rome and Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. That's why not only we will offer you one of our highly entertaining tour driver, but one of our professional guides, for an entirely guided tour Let's see what this private tour includes! Your private tour driver will welcome you at the dock of your cruise ship. And after a quick introduction to learn more about what you'll do on the tour, your quick trip to discover Rome will begin. Approaching the city you will stop on top of the Gianicolo Hill. A beautiful green hill that hosts incredible panoramic views of the city. Meet your private guide We offer the finest selection of expert guides, specialized in History, archeology, art and traditions of Rome. Your personal guide is not only very knowledgeable but will make this guided tour fun, catchy and engaging. So, what will you see when in Rome? First off, you'll cover the Historical Roman aspect of the City, a drive to the Circus Maximus, the legendary stadium, with a stop at the Colosseum, the Arch of Constantine, the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill. The glorious Colosseum, an amphitheater built in ancient Roman times to host all sorts of gory spectacles, like the infamous Gladiator fights. The Roman Forum, the Commercial and Political Hub of the Romans and the Palatine Hill, one of Rome's Seven Legendary Hills. Renaissance Times unveiled you get closer to the City center Busy shopping districts and runways intertwined with fountains temples and churches Piazza Venezia, a memorial built in honor of Italy's last king, Victor Emanuel II, an architectural digest. A white, temple-like building, built in layers on the side of Capitoline Hill, often times referred to as the wedding cake. Capitoline Hill is another of Rome's 7 Hills, and it's, to this day, the Political life of Rome (location of the Mayor's office), the square on top of the hill is a beautiful artful creation of Michelangelo himself, surrounded by Medieval and Renaissance buildings, such as the Town hall and the Capitoline Museums. The peculiar aspect of Capitoline Hill is that it is placed between two different Eras in Time: Past and present co-exist. The Roman Forum behind it and the present with the busy square of Piazza Venezia, surrounded by Renaissance buildings, that encompass Via Del Corso, one of the most famous shopping districts in the Capital. Driving across Via del Corso, several narrow streets intersect. Many of which will bring you to discover hidden gems like the Pantheon. Don't be fooled by the Temple shaped building, with Latin inscriptions. It was built in Roman times, to worship "All Gods" but it is, to this day, one of the most beautiful and still active Catholic churches in Italy. Hosting incredible artworks and mausoleums of several important people in history. Before you'll know it, you will reach the monumental Trevi Fountain, for a toss of the coin. Speaking of Fountains, a stop by the adjacent Piazza Navona is highly recommended. A renaissance beauty, dotted with three outstanding artistic fountains, such as the famous Fountain of the 4 Rivers, by Bernini, topped with an Egyptian obelisque, so fascinating. Then, of course, there is the Spanish Steps the iconic stair case, shaped like the wings of a butterfly. Before your private tour of Rome and Vatican continues your tour driver and your guide will be happy to recommend one of the nearby restaurants or Trattorias to enjoy a delicious, traditional lunch. You’ll then continue on the Vatican tour of the Museums and Sistine Chapel! The Vatican Museums contain an incredible collection of art and treasures. Your guide will walk you through a portion of this fascinating museum. Then you will reach the one and only Sistine Chapel. The ultimate masterpiece by Michelangelo, including wonderful frescoes of the CREATION and the LAST JUDGEMENT. But the walls and ceiling on the whole Chapel are one major work of art, to which other artists contributed, such as Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio. And finally, a visit at the Magnificent Saint Peter’s Basilica. You’ll see one of a kind masterpieces like Michelangelo’s PIETA and the bronze canopy over the high ALTAR by BERNINI. Saint Peter’s Square is another of Bernini’s creations. It is one of the loveliest squares in the World. To make this an absolutely "all-inclusive" experience, we offer skip the line tickets to Colosseum and Vatican, for you to add directly during the booking! After such an exciting and interesting day, you’ll enjoy the relaxing ride back to the cruise ship.
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