The Sistine Chapel

This place deserves its own post. You aren’t allowed to take photos, so I don’t have any from mine and I’ve used some public shots that I have really nothing to do with. But even so, it bears talking about.

The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel

It’s literally a masterpiece. A 5,900 square-foot masterpiece.

Ceiling Extraordinaire

The story goes that the Pope went to Michealangelo and said, “I want you to paint my personal chapel with the twelve apostles and Jesus.” And good ol’ Michelangelo said, “Thanks, but I’m good.” The pope, of course, used all kinds of “enticements” to get Michelangelo to do it, and in the end he did. However. He said, “Fine. But I’m doing this thing my way.” And then proceeded to make the thing way more extravagent than even the pope was envisioning.

On the ceiling are scenes from the creation story, the most famous of which is the Creation of Adam. Which most people probably think is a stand-alone painting. Nope. Fresco. Painted on the ceiling.

Español: Fresco en la Capilla Sixtina.

On the sides of the ceiling are prophets and some other notable bible stories, all of which are really impressive.

Zechariah (fresco by Michelangelo)

However, I’m going to bring the attention to the Final Jugement.

In the previous paintings you can feel the hope and life in the pictures. The painting is soft, the movement slow and gentle, the faces largely kind. Not so much in the Final Judgment. To quote Rick Steves’ “No one is happy.” Not even the people who ascend into heaven with Jesus. No. One.

The Last Judgement

And look at the movement in the painting. On Jesus’ right hand side move up the saved, while on his left the wicked are forcibly tossed back into hell. Even Michelangelo’s most vocal critic is there which his junk covered by a snake biting it all off.

Yeah. It’s pretty nasty.

But here’s what got me. This painting was done 25 years after the ceiling. And Michelangelo was a lot older and looked much more darkly at religion, as in he wasn’t so sure we were all getting into heaven. The question he supposedly asked himself is “have I used my talents for good? In a manner to please God?”

Michelangelo's self-portrait
Michelangelo’s self-portrait (Photo credit: RogerGW)

And the answer…according to the man himself, perhaps not. He painted himself in the painting…as flayed skin held by one of the Saints. Michelangelo, one of the greatest artists ever to have lived. Doubting himself.


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