The ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous frescoes in the world and unsurprisingly it’s one of Rome’s most visited and valued historic sites. Set within the Vatican City and Museums, the Sistine Chapel welcomes around 25,000 visitors a day who flock to see Michelangelo’s masterpiece and marvel at the feat of artistry. As cameras are banned, it’s one to make sure you don’t forget!
Here are 23 fascinating facts about the Sistine Chapel to peak your interest, test your trivia knowledge and to give you all the more reason to go and visit this stunning attraction.
1 The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned the chapel’s construction on the foundations of the original Capella Magna in 1477.
2 It was Pope Sixtus IV who invested money into building the chapel and some draw similarities between its new layout and that of the Temple of Solomon described in the Old Testament.
3 Before Michelangelo started on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1508, it had been decorated with a fresco of a blue night sky with golden stars, painted by the Umbrian artist Piero Matteo d’Amelia.
4 When Michelangelo was commissioned to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, he wasn’t very pleased, as his main artistic profession was to sculpt. It was with much displeasure that he undertook the role.
5 Michelangelo hated painting the ceiling so much that in 1509 he even wrote a poem lamenting to his friend Giovanni da Pistoia how he’d "grown a goiter from this torture," due to the physical strain of the work.
6 Although many believe Michelangelo painted the ceiling lying on his back, he actually constructed his own scaffolding, so that he could paint standing up for more precision and control.
7 The whole area of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel measures a little larger than a professional basketball court at 5,808 square feet. That’s 19% more square feet than a basketball court.
8 Don’t be fooled into thinking the only works of art on show in the Sistine Chapel are those by Michelangelo. You can also see frescoes and works by Domenico Ghirlandaio, Pietro Perugino, Cosimo Roselli and Sandro Botticelli on the walls.
9 It took Michelangelo four years to finish the fresco and he left God until last, wanting to have refined his technique enough to depict him perfectly.
10 The God Michelangelo painted as an older man with flowing gray hair inspired centuries of Christian paintings to come, later turning it into the archetypal representation of all Godly figures around the world.