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Sistine Chapel
Sistine Chapel

The Sistine Chapel (/ˌsɪstiːn ˈtʃæpəl/; Latin: Sacellum Sixtinum; Italian: Cappella Sistina [kapˈpɛlla siˈstiːna]) is a chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope, in Vatican City.

During the reign of Sixtus IV, a team of Renaissance painters that included Sandro Botticelli, Pietro Perugino, Pinturicchio, Domenico Ghirlandaio and Cosimo Roselli, created a series of frescos depicting the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ, offset by papal portraits above and trompe l’oeil drapery below.

Between 1508 and 1512, under the patronage of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted the chapel's ceiling, a project which changed the course of Western art and is regarded as one of the major artistic accomplishments of human civilization.

History


While known as the location of Papal conclaves, the primary function of the Sistine Chapel is as the chapel of the Papal Chapel(Cappella Pontificia ), one of the two bodies of the Papal household, called until 1968 the Papal Court (Pontificalis Aula ). At the time of Pope Sixtus IV in the late 15th century, the Papal Chapel comprised about 200 people, including clerics, officials of the Vatican and distinguished laity.

The Cappella Maggiore derived its name, the Greater Chapel, from the fact that there was another chapel also in use by the Pope and his retinue for daily worship.

The present chapel, on the site of the Cappella Maggiore, was designed by Baccio Pontelli for Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it is named, and built under the supervision of Giovannino de Dolci between 1473 and 1481.

The first mass in the Sistine Chapel was celebrated on 15 August 1483, the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

The Sistine Chapel has maintained its function to the present day, and continues to host the important services of the Papal Calendar, unless the Pope is travelling.

One of the functions of the Sistine Chapel is as a venue for the election of each successive pope in a conclave of the College of Cardinals.

The conclave also provided for the cardinals a space in which they can hear mass, and in which they can eat, sleep, and pass time attended by servants.

Canopies for each cardinal-elector were once used during conclaves—a sign of equal dignity.

Architecture


The chapel is a high rectangular building, for which absolute measurements are hard to ascertain, as available measurements are for the interior: 40.9 metres (134 ft) long by 13.4 metres (44 ft) wide, the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as given in the Old Testament.

Its exterior is unadorned by architectural or decorative details, as is common in many Italian churches of the Medieval and Renaissance eras.

The building is divided into three stories of which the lowest is a very tall basement level with several utilitarian windows and a doorway giving onto the exterior court.

The general proportions of the chapel use the length as the unit of measurement.

The ceiling of the chapel is a flattened barrel vault springing from a course that encircles the walls at the level of the springing of the window arches.

A screen or transenna in marble by Mino da Fiesole, Andrea Bregno, and Giovanni Dalmata divides the chapel into two parts.

Decoration


The first stage in the decoration of the Sistine Chapel was the painting of the ceiling in blue, studded with gilt stars, and with decorative borders around the architectural details of the pendentives.

Of the present scheme of frescos, the earliest part is that of the side walls.

The project was perhaps supervised by Perugino, who arrived at the chapel prior to the Florentines.

Beneath the cycles of The Life of Moses and The Life of Christ, the lower level of the walls is decorated with frescoed hangings in silver and gold.

The ceiling was commissioned by Pope Julius II and painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512.

In 1515, Raphael was commissioned by Pope Leo X to design a series of ten tapestries to hang around the lower tier of the walls.

At this point, the decorative scheme displayed a consistent iconographical pattern.

This was disrupted by a further commission to Michelangelo to decorate the wall above the altar with[[LINK|lang_en|The_Last_Judgment_(Michelangelo)|The Last Judgment]], 1537–1541.

Frescoes


The southern wall is decorated with the Stories of Moses, painted in 1481–1482.

The northern wall houses the Stories of Jesus, dating to 1481–1482.

Michelangelo was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to repaint the vault, or ceiling, of the Chapel.

Michelangelo was intimidated by the scale of the commission, and made it known from the outset of Julius II's approach that he would prefer to decline.

The sources of Michelangelo's inspiration are not easily determined; both Joachite and Augustinian theologians were within the sphere of Julius influence.

To be able to reach the ceiling, Michelangelo needed a support; the first idea was by Julius' favoured architect Donato Bramante, who wanted to build for him a scaffold to be suspended in the air with ropes.

The matter was taken before the Pope, who ordered Michelangelo to build a scaffold of his own.

Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor.

The painted area is about 40 m (131 ft) long by 13 m (43 ft) wide.

The Last Judgement was painted by Michelangelo from 1535 to 1541, between two important historic events, the Sack of Rome by mercenary forces of the Holy Roman Empire in 1527 and the Council of Trent which commenced in 1545.

The Last Judgement was an object of a bitter dispute between Cardinal Carafa and Michelangelo.

The Pope's Master of Ceremonies Biagio da Cesena said "it was most disgraceful that in so sacred a place there should have been depicted all those nude figures, exposing themselves so shamefully, and that it was no work for a papal chapel but rather for the public baths and taverns," [[CITE|undefined|http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/286]] In response Michelangelo worked da Cesena's semblance into the scene as Minos, judge of the underworld.

The genitalia in the fresco were later covered by the artist Daniele da Volterra, whom history remembers by the derogatory nickname "Il Braghettone" ("the breeches-painter").

Restoration and controversy


The Sistine Chapel's ceiling restoration began on 7 November 1984.

The problem lies in the analysis and understanding of the techniques utilised by Michelangelo, and the technical response of the restorers to that understanding.

The restorers, by assuming that the artist took a universal approach to the painting, have taken a universal approach to the restoration.

Replicas


The only reproduction of the Sistine Chapel ceiling was painted by Gary Bevans at a church in Goring-by-Sea, West Sussex, England.

Quotes on Michelangelo's frescoes in the Sistine Chapel


See also


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