I recently visited the Vatican City for the third time. I don’t think you can ever go too often – there’s just so much to see.
I went on a great tour and came away better informed.
For me, like many others, the star attraction of the Vatican City is the Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s ceiling and ‘The Last Judgement’ on the wall behind the altar.
But if it wasn’t for Pope Julius II, who bullied Michelangelo into painting the ceiling, we wouldn’t have it today.
At the age of 32, Michelangelo, well-known as a sculpture, was asked by Pope Julius II to paint the chapel’s ceiling. He had seen Michelangelo’s ‘Pieta’ in the Basilica of St Peter, a sculpture of the Virgin Mary and Christ.
Michelangelo refused the Pope’s commission as he had not painted since the age of 14 and feared he would fail Pope Julius II, who had a fearful reputation.
However, Pope Julius II insisted Michelangelo paint the Sistine Chapel and so the four-year long project began.The only concession Pope Julius II made was to allow Michelangelo to choose what he painted.
From the main altar to the entrance way, are a series of nine panels showing episodes from Genesis. Two of the most important scenes on the ceiling are the Creation of Adam and the Fall of Adam and Eve/Expulsion from the Garden.
The famous ceiling was finished in 1512, a remarkable feat considering the immense challenge posed by the size of the surface of the vault.
Then in 1535, Michelangelo returned to the Sistine Chapel, at the age of 61, this time commissioned by Pope Paul III to paint the wall behind the altar – The Last Judgment.