Sistine Chapel History

The Sistine Chapel is located in the museum of the Vatican in Rome, Italy. Much of its history focuses on the Renaissance period and the artist Michelangelo. This period of time was one in which artists used their optimism and desires to create their works of art. The Sistine chapel is decorated with frescoes which are a fine example of this period.

Early History

The Sistine Chapel was built between the years 1475 and 1481. The chapel was constructed by Giovanni, ordered by King Sixtus IV and designed by Baccio Pontelli. The chapel measures 13 meters wide and 40 meters long. The building is illuminated along its sides by six windows. The walls of the chapel were also painted during the reign of Sixtus IV and the paintings include those of Ghirlandaio, Pinturicchio, Boticelli and Signorelli.

The Sistine Chapel is divided into two parts of unequal sizes by a marble fence that was created by Andrea Bregno. The larger part of the chapel was reserved for clergy, and then the smaller area for the laymen. Andrea Bregno was also the man responsible for the construction of the pulpit that is situated on the right hand side of the chapel. The pavement of the Chapel has a jewel-like appearance and echoes the medieval period of Cosmati. The floors, walls and ceiling of the chapel proudly display a century of Italian art.


The Sistine Chapel changed dramatically during the patronage of Pope Julius II from 1503 to 1513. During his time as Pope he launched a rejuvenation of the Vatican and the rebuild of Saint Peter’s Basilica. Julius II admired Michelangelo, and it was under his instruction that the ceiling was painted by him. The original plans for the ceiling were actually quite basic but these were then transformed into what has been called one of the greatest artistic creations of all time.

In his paintings, Michelangelo depicted the creation and birth of Eve as well as the fall of mankind. It took him four years to complete his masterpieces, and he worked in total isolation. After his four years of solitude, Michelangelo returned 22 years later and painted The Last Judgment. The style of this last work showed a maturity that was lacking in his earlier works and one that showed the religious rejuvenation he was seeking.

The Sistine Chapel was recognized as a national treasure upon its completion. Since then, the chapel has undergone much restoration. It was discovered only 50 years after completion that cracks in the chapel had allowed for rainwater to enter and that soot had been obscuring the colors of the frescoes. The first refurbishment that was carried out of the Chapel was between 1566 and 1572 under Pope Pio IV.

The Sistine Chapel’s storied history continues well into the modern day with a total restoration plan to save the frescoes beginning in 1980. Arguments brewed amongst modern artists as to whether the restoration would actually ruin the frescoes. Scientists carried out tests to discover the very best way to restore them. They were then washed with a detergent to bring their colors back to life and then varnished to protect them in the same way that Michelangelo had previously done. The modern day Sistine Chapel boasts cold lights that have been installed to illuminate the frescoes without damage and the humidity of the chapel is constantly monitored to ensure the correct and long preservation of the work within.

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