Sistine Chapel. Five Hundred Years. Happy Birthday!

Sistine Chapel. Five Hundred Years. Happy Birthday!
Isabel del Rio

Sistine Chapel anniversary. Five hundred years of the Sistine Chapel.

Sistine Chapel ceiling. Foto by Eustaquio Santiman

Sistine Chapel ceiling. Foto by Eustaquio Santiman

Before Michelangelo Buonarroti finished the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel on October 31, 1512, the ceiling (in fact, a vault) of the big rectangular chapel, where old Popes celebrated their private prayers, it was outmoded and very little artistic. Some Popes had described it has a horrible giant shed.

At that time, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel imitated the sky. Then, it was painted in blue and decorated with golden stars. On the lateral walls, some recent paintings by Botticelli, Perugino or Ghirlandaio had improved the aspect of the chapel, but not too much.

The Sistine Chapel is situated in a Vatican building close to St. Peter’s Basilica. In the beginning of the Renaissance, the ancient basilica of the 5th century was ruined, and the architect Bramante was trying to build a new church (the current) with a great dome. All of the Vatican buildings were being restored and Julius II commanded to Michelangelo the immense work (40.5 metres long and 14 metres wide. Furthermore, the ceiling rises to 20 metres above the main floor of the chapel what difficult still more Michelangelo’s work).

The works started in 1508 and finished on October 31, 1512 (then, 500 years ago). Julius II celebrated that day a special Mass. Today, Benedict XVI has repeated the ritual.

Fantastic frescoes with images of the Genesis. In the middle of the ceiling the most famous scene: The Creation of Adam. In the central point of view, two hands, the hand of God touching Adam’s hand and giving life to Mankind. Michelangelo spent so many hours painting in bad position that his neck was damaged forever.

Anyway and in spite Michelangelo didn’t want to paint anymore, 30 years later, he had to paint The Final Judgment on the main wall of the Sistine Chapel. Following his Humanist ideas, all of the figures were naked, what caused a big scandal. In fact, a century later, some of the figures were covered with clothes.

The anniversary coincides with the controversy sparked by Paolucci, director of the Vatican Museums, about the conditions of conservation of the Sistine Chapel. He has said that maybe they will have to limit visitors or to install an expensive method of air conditioning (we must remember that some months ago, he opined just the opposite). Anyway, Paolucci discards any restoration, as the one carried out from 1984 to 1994, very controversial.

Definitely, five hundred years of life and the Sistine Chapel still shines in all its splendor, the splendor of a time: the Renaissance.

Happy Birthday!

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