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My Italian Travels

The Sistine Chapel is the most famous

parts of the Vatican with millions of people visiting it every year. One thing I find interesting is so many people think Michelangelo painted the entire chapel but he only painted the ceiling and the wall behind the alter. There may be many people who may say upon entering the Sistine Chapel what am I looking at and who painted all of what I see.


In this article I will talk about various parts of the Chapel and who painted different parts of it and what each painting is supposed to represent. I am also providing a link to a great site with an interactive panoramic picture that you can move around and see anything in the room so click this link to see the picture   http://www.vatican.va/various/cappelle/sistina_vr/index.html


I will start by going over everything Michelangelo painted starting with the wall behind the alter. This fresco is called the Last Judgment and  was painted between 1536 and 1541 and was done more than 20 years after he had finished the ceiling. The original fresco depicted everyone in the nude but after Michelangelo died the church deemed nudity in church art unexcitable and commissioned artists to cover the offensive areas.


Moving on to the ceiling which has four names for different areas that follows a theme, we can start in the corners which are called Pendentives. These paintings tell the story of the rescue of the people of Israel and are meant to tie the stories on the ceiling and the walls together.


To get our bearings let's start with the corners above the Last Judgment, the painting on the top right which is on the north side of the chapel is of Moses as he raises up a bronze snake, the painting on the opposite corner is of Haman who is being slain.


Moving to the other end of the chapel while facing the other end, the top right picture closest to the south wall is David slaying Goliath while in the other corner is Judith slaying Holofernes.


Next we can look at the outer edge of the ceiling where we have three separate sets of paintings. One set called Webs are paintings inside the triangular shapes in the ceiling and the Sibyls and Prophets which are every other painting in the square areas running along both outer edges between the Webs.


Starting in the center just above the Last Judgment is the Prophet Jonah, while standing with the last Judgment to your left and above the north wall and going from left to right is the Sibyl Libyan then the Web with Jesse, David and Solomon painted. Next we have the Prophet Danial followed by a Web with Asa, Josaphet and Joram then the Sibyl Cumean.


Finishing up the north wall outer ceiling is a Web with Ezekias, Manasse and Amon then the Prophet Isaiha followed by a Web of Josias, Bechonias  and Salathiel and ending with the Sibyl Delphic.


On to the south wall outer ceiling, with the last Judgment to your right look to the far wall and above in the center is the Prophet Zacheriah, from there moving from left to right the first square painting is the Prophet Joel followed by the Web of Zerubbabel, Abiud, and Eliakim.


Next is the Sibyl Eritrean then to a Web of Uzziah, Joatham and Ahaz next and in the center is the Prophet Ezekiel then the Web of Rehoboam and Abijah. Finishing up the south wall will be the Sibyl Persian followed by the Web of Salmon, Boaz and Obed then lastly the Prophet Jeremaih.


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Now on to the most looked upon and famous part of the ceiling, the center section. Because our focus had been with the front wall we will start from the front and work through the stories of Genesis. The first painting we see is called the separation if light from darkness.  


Next is the Creation of the sun, the moon and the planets followed by the Separation of the land and the sea. In the center two paintings are  probably the most famous and published paintings the first being the creation of Adam followed by the creation of Eve. The next painting is also very famous and published and is the depiction of Original sin and the expulsion from Adam and Eve from the garden of Eden.


The next painting is called the Sacrifice of Noah, I have looked at this painting many time and don't really understand it's title. The last two paintings in the center are the great flood and lastly the Drunkenness of Noah.

  

The North wall has 3 sections called from top rounded section called Lunettes and going down are the pontiffs followed by the paintings called the stories of Christ.


Starting with the Lunettes from the left closest to Last Judgment is the fresco Naason then Jesse, David, and Solomon, then Asa, Josaphat, and Joram followed by Ezechias, Manasses and Amon then Josias, Jechonias, and Salathiel and lastly Azor and Sadoch.  


I will have to admit I don't understand the naming of these Fresco's because many are naming three people and there are only 2 in the Fresco. I noticed this when I was there and in every picture I have see.

 

On Down the north wall will be the Pontiffs, again starting from the left we have St Anacletus, St Alexander I, St Telesphorus, St Pius I St Soter, St Victor I, St Callistus I, St Pontianus, St Fabian, St Lucius I, St Sixtus II and lastly St Felix I.


The last set of Frescos on the north wall starts with the Baptism of Christ by Perugino,  Temptations of Christ by Botticelli, The calling of the first Apostles by Ghirlandaio, Sermon on the Mount by Rosselli, Handing over of the keys by Perugino and finely the last supper by Rosselli. I don't want to discuss the Drapes because I am only talking about the Fresco's in the chapel.


The south wall is equally embellished by the same artists. Like the north wall the south wall has the same series of named Frescos from the top down, Lunettes, Pontiffs and the Stories of Christ. Again we will start with the left side but this time we will start from the back wall. Lunettes top left are, Achim, Eliud, Sorobabel, Abiud, and Eliachim, Ozias, Loatham, Achaz, then Roboam, Abias followed by Salmon, Booz and Obeth and lastly Aminadab.


The Pontiffs from left to right are St Dionysius, St Stephan I, St Cornelius, St Anterus, St Urban I, St Zephirinus, St eleutherus, St Anicetus, St Iginus, St Sixtus I, St Evaristus and lastly St Clements I.


Going down the south wall to the last set of Fresco's called the Stories Of Moses again working from left to right are The legacy and death of Moses by Signorelli, Punishment of Korah, Dathan and Abiram by Botticelli next is Handing ofer of the Tablets of the law by Rosselli then Passage of the Red Sea By B d'Antonio followed by Events in the life of Moses by Botticelli and lastly The Journey of Moses in Egypt by Perugino.


Hopefully this will give you enough of an understanding of the Fresco's in the Sistine chapel to make some sense of what you are looking at when you are there. This along with the link to the interactive panoramic  photo provided above should make things easier to figure out.


Sistine Chapel

Picture of the last judgement, sistine chaple picture of the ceiling in the sistine chapel The calling of the first Apostles  Sistine Chapel Sermon on the Mount Sistine Chapel Main Center Ceiling Sistine Chapel Picture from Sistine Chapel The Vatican Rome

To see and book any of the great Vatican tours available click picture above