My knowledge of Christianity is very limited. To me, the significance of the Sistine Chapel is only in the ceiling. And for the most part, it is. But the wall behind the altar is also dramatic, with Michaelangelo’s painting of the Last Judgement.
At the Vatican Museum, all paths lead to the Capella Sistine. They really do build up the hype, by putting a number of exhibits along the way, mostly heavyweight art and sculpture. Then they build it up further by putting a pit stop just before the actual exhibit. You definitely need to refresh yourself, and get a coffee before climbing the steps to the Capella. ‘Coz once you’re in there, you can only gape in awe at the ceiling, think of all those cliched images you’ve seen in books and TV, and then admire the real thing. Crane your neck up and absorb all the details that appeal to you – the biblical characters and the stories, the amazing paintings, colours, composition, or visualize what Michelangelo must have gone through while getting on the scaffolding and actually paint the ceiling.
No photography allowed inside the chapel (though some do flout the rule and get bad pictures on their mobile phones). I guess that is the clincher – to make it so popular. Some of the other ceilings in the museum are also spectacular, but you can photograph them. And to think Michelangelo resented this commission, because he preferred sculpture to painting.
The information about the chapel is quite interesting (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sistine_Chapel). After getting there and seeing that, you do want a souvenir, since you can’t have a picture. So we did the next best thing – bought a jigsaw puzzle. Michelangelo took 3-4 years to finish his work of art. I hope to take 3-4 days to complete my masterpiece.
Until it’s done, I will be back-bending and working like the master, and getting to know the ceiling painting intimately. Will unveil next week.