Top 10 things to know about the Sistine Chapel

A true artistic and cultural treasure nestled in the heart of Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel attracts more than 10,000 visitors a day. In fact, it even seems that some of these visitors pay the entrance ticket to the Vatican Museums just to gain access to the Sistine Chapel.

1. Popes are elected here

Even if it means choosing a place to elect the popes, you might as well opt for the most beautiful. It is therefore since the 15th century that the cardinals choose the popes in conclave in the heart of the Sistine Chapel.

2. It takes its name from a pope

This is Pope Sixtus IV. It was he who began the daring work of restoring the existing chapel on the occasion of his jubilee in 1475.

3. The greatest artists of the time contributed to it

Over the years, several painters were commissioned to decorate the walls of the Sistine Chapel. Masters like Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli or even Pinturicchio and of course the most famous of them, Michelangelo, who for his part, took charge of this vulgar ceiling.

4. Michelangelo didn’t like working on the chapel fresco at all

If it is often said that the famous artist painted his no less famous fresco of the ceiling of the chapel lying on his back on a scaffolding, it is false. In reality, as incredible as it may seem given the magnificent details of his painting, Michelangelo painted standing. He had also designed the scaffolding himself. Later, the painter, who had already accepted the job reluctantly, considering himself above all a sculptor, had declared that the painting sessions had caused him horrible back pain. He wrote : “I have already developed a goiter from this torture, curled up here like a cat in Lombardy. My belly is crushed under my chin, my beard pointing skyward, my brain is crushed in a coffin, my chest twists like a harpy’s. My brush, above me all the time, drools with paint so my face makes a nice floor for droppings! »

His painting as a whole includes 343 characters. Michelangelo took 4 years to complete his work for a total of 26,208 hours. Aged 33 at the start of the work, he finished with a loose back and irreparably damaged eyesight.

5. Michelangelo would have placed unexpected details in his work

The most known ? The brain that the angels and the stoles surrounding God seem to form. When you look closely, it’s all there: the frontal lobe and everything else! You should know that this theory did not come out of a magic hat like that. Michelangelo having studied anatomy a lot.

6. Michelangelo, again, created the first true image of God

Before, God was most often represented in the form of a huge hand coming out of the heavens. Michelangelo dared to draw it in detail and thus contributed to giving it an image that is still widely used and recognized worldwide today. That of a middle-aged man, strong and bearded, with long hair.

7. All these nude characters shocked in their time

Yes, there are plenty of nude figures on the walls and ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo himself drew more than himself. However, the thing was rather badly seen. So much so that an artist, Daniele da Volterra, was hired after Michelangelo’s death to draw fig leaves and loincloths on the genitals. A thankless task that earned him the nickname of “pants maker.” »

8. Photos are prohibited

You might as well be warned to avoid disappointment. In principle, photos (and hats) are prohibited in the Sistine Chapel. Of course, many visitors manage to deceive the vigilance of the guards. The latter are often busy asking people to shut up. In May 2022, Jason Momoa, the famous Aquaman, visited the chapel after filming his scenes of Fast and Furious 10. His presence having caused such a stir that the actor felt obliged to publish an apology on his Instagram account in the following days.

9. There are several replicas in the world

In 1987, the painter Gary Bevan reproduced the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Goring Church in West Sussex. Knowing that the guy was completely self-taught… Balèze. Mexico City is also home to a life-size replica. The particularity of this Sistine Chapel bis is that it was shaped using 2.7 million photos of the real chapel, which were then printed on fabric.

10. Tourism endangers the frescoes of the chapel

If the Vatican authorities have not hesitated to ban photos inside the chapel, they can not however do anything to prevent tourists from breathing. Because yes, the carbon dioxide of the 10,000 gus who visit it every day is not good at all for the paintings.