About Sistine Chapel

Giovanni de Dolci designed the Sistine Chapel, the papal chapel in the Vatican Palace, between 1473 and 1481 for Pope Sixtus IV (hence its name). The Sistine Chapel is particularly famous for its Renaissance frescoes by Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel is a rectangular building with six arched windows on each of the two main (or side) walls and a barrel-vaulted ceiling. The exterior of the chapel is plain and unadorned, but its interior walls and ceiling are adorned with frescoes by many Florentine Renaissance masters. 

The frescoes that you’ll find on the side walls of the chapel were painted between 1481 to 1483. On the north wall, there are six frescoes depicting events from the life of Christ painted by Perugino, Pinturicchio, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, and Cosimo Rosselli. On the south wall, there are six other frescoes depicting events from the life of Moses by Perugino, Pinturicchio, Botticelli, Domenico, Benedetto Ghirlandaio, Rosselli, Luca Signorelli, and Bartolomeo Della Gatta. 

There are even smaller frescoes above these works, placed between the windows that depict various Popes. For special state occasions, the lower parts of the side walls were covered with a series of tapestries depicting events from the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. These were designed by Raphael and woven in 1515-19 in Brussels.

The main artworks in the chapel are the frescoes by Michelangelo on the ceiling and the west wall behind the altar. The ceiling frescoes, which were collectively named the Sistine Ceiling, were commissioned in the year 1508 by Pope Julius II. Michelangelo painted them in the years 1508 to 1512. These frescoes depict scenes and instances from the Hebrew Bible. 

The Last Judgment fresco on the west wall was painted by Michelangelo for Pope Paul III in the period from 1534 to 1541. These two enormous frescoes are among the greatest achievements of Western art. A 10-year cleaning and restoration of the Sistine Ceiling completed in 1989 removed several centuries’ accumulation of dirt, smoke, and stain. In 1994, the cleaning and restoration of the Last Judgment were finally finished.

As the pope’s chapel, the Sistine Chapel is the site of important ecclesiastical functions and is used by the Sacred College of Cardinals for the election of a new pope when there is a vacancy.