The Sistine Chapel was …. sigh. Just fantastic.
We watched Angels and Demons recently … and all I could think about afterward was “I can’t believe I’ve been there”
One of the stories – as told to us by Jimmy, our incredibly adorable Angel Tours guide – is that in the early early 1900s there was a little boy who wanted to be an artist. He had heard about the Sistine Chapel and lived his whole life waiting to see it. Learning about Michelangelo’s amazing work is what helped spur this little boy toward being an artist when he grew up.
When he got older, the dreams of being an artist faded. While he still practiced, he wasn’t as critically acclaimed as he had hoped. This man soon found something else to be passionate about, but he still dreamed about seeing the Sistine Chapel in real life.
As a man, he traveled to Rome and the Vatican city several times but each time he was disappointed. The Sistine Chapel was closed to visitors for restoration, or to vote for the new pope or for another reason.
As he got older, he still wanted nothing more than to visit the Sistine Chapel.
The last time he visited Rome was during World War II. Rumor has it the pope heard this man was coming to Rome, and closed the Sistine Chapel ON PURPOSE to keep him out.
This man was Adolf Hitler. He never saw the Sistine Chapel.
Amazing to think that Andrew and I have seen something that even Hitler at the height of his power didn’t get to see.
Pretty crazy, huh?
p.s. I love history
The Vatican museum has does not allow talking inside the Sistine Chapel – and so does not allow real guided groups. BUT what they have done (which I think is a great idea) is set up in this courtyard several sign/displays of the Sistine Chapel images so guides can show their groups and teach their groups about the paintings.
Also in the courtyard (from Stuardt Clarke’s Rome):
So, what’s with the gold ball in the courtyard! I have gotten many e-mails wanting to know what the unusual sculpture is that is the centerpiece of the Courtyard of the Pinecone at the Vatican Museums. This bronze sculpture is called Sphere Within Sphere (Sfera Con Sfera) and it measures four meters in diameter. It was created by artist Arnaldo Pomodoro in 1990 for the Vatican Museums. Pomodoro’s specialty is the casting of gigantic columns and/or globes. In this magnificent sculpture, the fractured surface of the outer sphere reveals a very complex inner sphere that represents the harsh difficulties that the modern world finds itself in at the end of the second millennium. One needs to view this masterpiece from every angle. Many people want to have their picture taken beside it, so be prepared to stand for a while before getting a picture of it in the way you wish to.
Jimmy was THE BEST!
He was so knowledgable about the Sistine Chapel and all …. and he would get super excited or animated about something and start talking really fast.
We learned a little bit about the commission of the artwork, about the method of how Michelangelo painted, about the themes of the images, and the style he painted in. About how the first few images are very detailed, and then when he got to the floor and realized noone would be able to see those details he started painting much more simply. We learned about the self-portrait in The Last Judgment. and a million other interesting details ….
You can read about the process and controversy of the restoration of the Sistine Chapel at Wikipedia. Very very interesting. There is no doubt the colors were much more muted and dark from centuries of stove smoke and lamps, but there is a question about what also was lost during the restoration.
No photos are allowed in the Sistine Chapel. None. If I remember correctly, it’s in part because a major company (Sony, maybe) paid for the restoration recently in exchange for owning the copyright….
So, don’t tell anyone I took these
In the image below, down in the right corner you can see there is still a black spot. That is what the ceiling looked like BEFORE restoration …. they left that part dirty to show the difference …
We saw the burn mark on the floor where the stove sits during the Papal Conclave …
We safely exited …. without sliding down the stairs …
…. and turned the corner and walked right into St. Peter’s Basilica.