At home with the Pope

The incredible 16th century artwork that adorns the ceilings and walls inside the Sistine Chapel is the work of the renowned painter and sculptor Michelangelo. I learned that during the 4 years it took for him to paint and design this place, he fell off the catwalks twice and broke his leg, and his sight was forever ruined due to long periods of laying on his back with paint dripping into his eyes! What’s more, Michelangelo died believing nobody would ever fully appreciate his monumental work. Despite his fears, the Sistine Chapel – the official residence of the Pope – is now one of Italy’s most-visited and most-loved tourist attractions.

The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican
It is a popular tourist attraction
It is a popular tourist attraction

The Sistine Chapel is without doubt one of the greatest art treasures of all time, one of the most celebrated masterpieces in the world. It’s the last stop on the Vatican Museum tour and is the most ardently awaited moment for the millions of tourists from around the world that come here every year to admire it. Step into the Sistine Chapel and the magic completely envelops you because literally everything in this place is priceless and rich in history, from the pavement to the amazing frescoed ceiling by Michelangelo.

From the outside, the Chapel gives an entirely different impression: its imposing defensive structure is almost fearsome with its powerful walls and menacing ramparts. I was not impressed with the exterior – and certainly not after visiting the nearby St. Peter’s Basilica. It’s like an ancient strongbox guarding a treasure: powerful and massive outside, rich in extraordinary and unimaginably precious masterpieces inside.

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The creative force behind all this fame and beauty is the unsurpassed genius of Michelangelo. Normally, the artists of the time completed their artwork with the help of assistants. The master personally worked on only certain parts of the piece while the apprentices finished off the minor details. This wasn’t the case with the Sistine Chapel, as incredibly, all of its beauty is the work of one single man. Rome and the Vatican are two of the most photogenic places in Italy and perhaps all of Europe, but it is not until you’ve stepped inside the Sistine Chapel that you truly appreciate the purpose of taking photographs!

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Extraordinarily, these paintings inside the Sistine Chapel were only revealed to the public in the past 500 years! Until then, they were a closely guarded secret, viewable only to the current Pope (who resides here), along with staff and very special guests.

Nowadays, most tourists enter the Sistine Chapel as part of a larger tour of the Vatican, which can set you back between 50-60 Euros per person. If, however, you only want to marvel at Michelangelo’s magic, then an online reservation will cost 16 Euros per person, and this ticket is also valid for other museums in the Vatican. I am not aware of a single ticket just for the Sistine Chapel. You simply reserve your date and time online, print off the “e-ticket” (or keep it handy on your iPhone or iPad) and then present it at the door. The Sistine Chapel is closed to tourists on Sundays.

I bet Michelangelo wasn’t so lucky as to have Sundays off…

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