23 Interesting Facts About the Sistine Chapel

The Last Judgement11 The Last Judgment wasn’t actually painted at the same time as the great ceiling fresco. In fact, Michelangelo returned twenty-two years later in 1536 to begin his masterpiece on the wall above the altar. There have been many analyses of The Last Judgment and the allegories and representations within the paintings. Some believe The Creation of Adam draws many parallels to the anatomy of the human brain due to the way it has been painted with the stem, frontal lobe and artery - which is reasonable given Michelangelo’s expertise in human anatomy. Other interpretations include Saint Bartholomew holding the skin of a self-portrait of Michelangelo himself...

12 It’s hard to believe that Michelangelo completed the entire ceiling without being able to review his piece as a whole, since the scaffolding remained in place right until the very end. This means that the first time Michelangelo saw his work, was the time it was unveiled!



section of ceiling


13 Although the ceiling and frescoes are near-perfect, there is one tiny part of the sky in the panel depicting Noah’s escape which is missing, due to an explosion at a gunpowder depot in 1797 that caused the plaster to fall off.

Fig leaves


14 Among the things that couldn’t be misinterpreted were the nudes painted in the frescoes. In 1564, the Council of Trent deemed the images inappropriate and Daniele da Volterra was ordered to cover them up by painting fig leaves, clothing and other items to hide their indecency.

15 However, some of the drapes were removed to reveal the original painting during the big restoration efforts of the 1980s-1990s.

16 Another recurring motif is the acorns which populate the frescoes. This is a nod by Michelangelo to the patronage of Pope Sixtus IV, whose family name was Rovere – meaning oak, in Italian.

17 The Sistine Chapel is now a historic building of such acclaim that over five million people come to visit a year – that’s equal to the population of Norway!


5 million visitors

18 It’s not only visitors who pay homage to the Sistine Chapel. It’s also the Pope’s private chapel, guaranteeing a few extra visits.

19 Come election time for a new Pope, the College of Cardinals meets at the Sistine Chapel – as they have done since 1492 – to submit their votes under oath.


vote for pope

20 The process is so intense that there’s even a room nicknamed the Room of Tears to represent the emotion the lucky chosen candidate will feel after winning the election.

21 It’s not just photos that are banned during visiting times to protect the colours from fading. During election time the College of Cardinals also has to be scanned for bugs before entering. There are 115 security checks in total!

no shirt no service


22 If you have exposed shoulders or are wearing items of clothing that ends above the knee, you will be refused entry or asked to cover up within the Sistine Chapel. Visitors to this site should respect the code of conduct and dress appropriately.



23 The most dangerous thing about tourists visiting the Sistine Chapel is the damage not visible to the naked eye. The sweat, carbon dioxide and skin flakes of the five thousand visitors a day pose a threat to the restoration of the masterpiece. The creation of a humidity and temperature control machine is underway.

In Conclusion

The Sistine Chapel will forever be one of Rome’s most popular places to visit thanks to the sheer scale of the masterpiece and the feat of exceptional artistry. Thanks to its location within Vatican City, the Sistine Chapel will remain protected and upheld by Papal traditions and forever considered one of the most important religious destinations in the world.


See the Sistine Chapel in 3D Virtual Reality: Sistine Chapel Virtual Reality (You have to give Adobe Flash permission to load on this page. It's well worth it!)

Most graphics in this section were furnished by Omnia Vatican and Rome


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