|Official Residence of the Pope
The Sistine Chapel is located in the Apostolic Palace which is the Pope's official residency. The chapel still hosts important services of the Papal calendar, there is also a permanent choir. A lot of original music has been written for the choir including Gregorio Allegri's Miserere.
The Last Judgement
The Sistine Chapel is famed for its frescoes, and The Last Judgement by Michelangelo and his famous ceiling is the unanimous highlight. It has been drawing visitors to the Vatican for more than 500 years. It is estimated that this alone brings in $100 million annually in ticket sales, contributed by 25,000 visitors a day.
Michelangelo began work on the ceiling in July 1508. The completed frescoes were unveiled in October 1512. The chapel's paintings cover 12,000 sq ft, about one-sixth the size of a football pitch.
The main nine panels at the centre of Michelangelo's ceiling depict stories from the Book of Genesis, from the Creation to the story of Noah. Michelangelo painted the vast fresco of The Last Judgment on the end altar wall of the Sistine Chapel long after the ceiling frescoes, between 1536 to 1541.
Michelangelo's frescoes and portrayal of God
The frescoes are famous for Michelangelo's portrayal of God. Michelangelo's God is a muscular figure with long white hair and big white beard. God is depicted six times in the ceiling frescoes.
Depiction of Christ in the frescoes
Christ does not feature as an adult at all. The Christ Child appears amongst the figures under God's cloak in the famous image of God Creating Adam. This is because, apart from images of the sibyls, the ceiling is concerned only with the Old Testament. Christ appears in Michelangelo's later fresco of The Last Judgment on the chapel's altar wall.
The Papal Conclave
The election of a new pope, the papal conclave, is held in the Sistine Chapel. During the election, the chapel's doors are closed with the words "Extra Omnes" which means "Everyone out". The elections are held in absolute secrecy, and are today a globally followed live event. Followed from the outside of course.
The progress is marked by smoke rising from the chimney of the Sistine Chapel. Smoke rises at the end of every ballot, from a stove installed for the election. White smoke indicates that a new pope has been elected. Bells are rung to commemorate the occasion.
Key HighlightsEveryone must visit the Sistine Chapel once in their lifetime. And if there is only one thing you must see in The Sistine Chapel, head straight to view the ceiling painted by Michelangelo.
Also view the series of frescoes from famous Renaissance era painters such as Botticelli, Roseli and Ghirlandaio. The frescoes include a depiction of the Life of Moses and the Life of Christ which dates back to 1482.
Learn more about the Papal Concalve and the depiction of God in Michelangelo's frescoes.