Michelangelo’s Fresco in the Cappella Sistina

Cappella-SistinaSistine Chapel (or Cappella Sistina) is among the most visited places in Rome, Italy. Sistine Chapel is found on the right side of the Cathedral of Saint Peter. This is the chapel of the papal palace.

Sistine Chapel is a parallelepiped shape, with a length of 41 meters, a width of 13.41 meters and a height of nearly 21 meters. The Chapel is divided into two parts: on eastern end is the altar, and in the west is space for believers. The ceiling is vaulted and conservators in their upper part are illuminated by a series of 12 large windows. The floor of the chapel shows a remarkable mosaic of colored marble.

Sistine Chapel is the place where meetings are held when choosing the next pope. The first service was officiated here on 9 August 1483; on this occasion the chapel is dedicated to Virgin Mary.

Michelangelo’s fresco in the Cappella Sistina – Important facts

Chapel walls were dressed with paintings in a very short period, i.e. in less than 11 months: July 1481 – May 1482, by Michelangelo and few other artists of the time.

These murals are divided into three major periods: the period from the creation of the world until the giving of the Ten Commandments, the period from Moses to the birth of Jesus Christ, and after Christ.

The two scenes of great paintings on the walls are the work of Perugino (the “Christ gives the keys to Peter”), and Botticelli’s with the “Punishment of Korah”. Both depict the Arch of Constantine, the first great Christian emperor that the pope had given temporary driving power in the Western Roman Empire.

– Punishment of Korah


Punishment of Korah is depicted together with the Jewish revolt against Moses and Aaron. Due to the difficulties experienced by the Jewish people after leaving Egypt and crossing the Red Sea, some of the people rebelled against Moses, demanding his removal and lifting another leader who led them back to Egypt.

– Ceiling

The ceiling of the chapel remained unfinished with yellow stars from place to place, from an unknown reason. Thus, in 1508, Pope entrusted Michelangelo with this honorable task.

Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling painting, covering more than 500 square meters for four years. Between 1508-1512, the artist struggled to finish the job, working alone without apprentices.

Due to the height of the chapel, the ceiling was painted difficultly. The helping hand came from Bramante. However, Michelangelo built his own scaffold, suspended but supported with some key holes on the edges.

Sistine ceiling depicts nine scenes from the age leading to world’s creation:

1. Separation of Light from Darkness


2. Creation of the Sun and Moon and the creation of planets


3. Separation of ground from water


4. Creation of Adam


5. Creation of Eve


6. Expulsion from Paradise


7. Sacrifice of Noah


8. The Flood


9. Drunkenness of Noah


In 12 separate fields Michelangelo painted rectangular faces of seven prophets and five sibyls, as follows:


– Daniel
– Ezekiel
– Isaiah
– Jeremiah
– Joel
– Iona
– Zechariah


– Sibyl of Cumae (Sibila Cumana)
– Delphic Sibyl (Sibila DELF)
– Sibyl of Eritrea (Eritrean Sibyl)
– Sibyl of Libya (Libyan Sibyl)
– Sibyl of Persia (Persian Sibyl)

The fourteen fields are semicircular ceiling frescoes (by Michelangelo): the forerunners of Jesus (Matthew 1.1 to 16) – 6 on the north wall, six on the south wall and two on the opposite wall known as “Last Judgement”.

Northern wall:

Baptism of Jesus (Pietro Perugino, 1482)


Temptation of Jesus (Sandro Botticelli, 1481-1482)


The call of the first disciples (Domenico Ghirlandaio, 1481-1482)


Sermon on the Mount (Cosimo Rosselli, 1481-1482)


Jesus teaches the keys of the kingdom of heaven to Peter (Pietro Perugino, 1481-1482)


Last Supper (Cosimo Rosselli, 1481-1482)


Southern wall:

Journey of Moses in Egypt (Pietro Perugino, 1482)


Scenes from the life of Moses (Sandro Botticelli 1481-1482)


Crossing the Red Sea (Cosimo Rosselli, 1481-1482)


Moses with the Tablets of the Law (Cosimo Rosselli, 1481-1482)

Punishment Levites rebels Korah, Dathan and Abiram (Sandro Botticelli, 1482)


Testament and Death of Moses (Luca Signorelli, 1481-1482)


These are the most important facts to be acknowledged when it comes to Michelangelo’s fresco in the Cappella Sistina.

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