The Sistine Chapel is the the official residence of the Pope in the Vatican City.
Sistine Chapel is the best-known chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope in Vatican City. It is famous for its architecture and its decoration which has been frescoed throughout by the greatest Renaissance artists including Michelangelo, Raphael, Bernini, and Sandro Botticelli. Under the patronage of Pope Julius II, Michelangelo painted 12,000 square feet (1,100 m2) of the Sistine Chapel ceiling between 1508 and 1512. He resented the commission, and believed his work only served the Pope's need for grandeur. However, today the ceiling, and especially The Last Judgement, are widely believed to be Michelangelo's crowning achievements in painting.
The Sistine Chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus IV, who restored the old Cappella Magna between 1477 and 1480. Since the time of Sixtus IV, the Sistine Chapel has served as a place of both religious and functionary papal activity. Today it is the site of the Papal conclave the process by which a new Pope is selected.
The Sistine Chapel is best known for being the location of Papal conclaves; it is, however, the physical chapel of the Papal Chapel.
The Cappella Maggiore derived its name, the Greater Chapel, from the fact that there was another chapel also in use by the Pope and his retinue for daily worship.
The present chapel , on the site of the Cappella Maggiore, was designed by Baccio Pontelli for Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it is named, and built under the supervision of Giovannino de Dolci between 1473 and 1481. The proportions of the present chapel appear to closely follow those of the original. After its completion, the chapel was decorated with frescoes by a number of the most famous artists of the High Renaissance, including Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, and Michelangelo.
The first mass in the Sistine Chapel was celebrated on August 9, 1483, the Feast of the Assumption, at which ceremony the chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Virgin Mary. The Sistine Chapel has maintained its function to the present day, and continues to host the important services of the Papal Calendar, unless the Pope is travelling. There is a permanent choir, the Sistine Chapel Choir, for whom much original music has been written, the most famous piece being Allegri's Miserere.
The Sistine Chapel is a high rectangular brick building, its exterior unadorned by architectural or decorative details, as common in many Medieval and Renaissance churches in Italy. It has no exterior facade or exterior processional doorways, as the ingress has always been from internal rooms within the Papal Palace , and the exterior can be seen only from nearby windows and light-wells in the palace. The internal spaces are divided into three stories of which the lowest is huge, with a robustly vaulted basement with several utilitarian windows and a doorway giving onto the exterior court.
Above is the main space, the Sistine Chapel , the internal measurements of which are 40.9 metres (134 ft) long by 13.4 metres (44 ft) wide. The vaulted ceiling rises to 20.7 metres (68 ft). The building had six tall arched windows down each side and two at either end. The gangway has been roofed as it was a continual source of water leaking in to the vault of the Sistine Chapel.
The wall paintings were executed by the most respected painters of the 15th century: Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio, Cosimo Rosselli, Luca Signorelli and their respective workshops, which included Pinturicchio, Piero di Cosimo and Bartolomeo della Gatta. Michelangelo Buonarroti was commissioned by Pope Julius II in 1508 to repaint the vault, or ceiling, of the Sistine Chapel . It was originally painted as golden stars on a blue sky. The work was completed between 1508 and 2 November 1512. He painted the Last Judgment over the altar, between 1535 and 1541, on commission from Pope Paul III Farnese.
To be able to reach the ceiling, Michelangelo needed a support; the first idea was by Julius' favoured architect Donato Bramante, who wanted to build for him a scaffold to be suspended in the air with ropes. However, Bramante did not successfully complete the task, and the structure he built was flawed. He had perforated the vault in order to lower strings to secure the scaffold. Michelangelo laughed when he saw the structure, and believed it would leave holes in the ceiling once the work was ended. He asked Bramante what was to happen when the painter reached the perforations, but the architect had no answer.
The matter was taken before the Pope , who ordered Michelangelo to build a scaffold of his own. Michelangelo created a flat wooden platform on brackets built out from holes in the wall, high up near the top of the windows. He stood on this scaffolding while he painted.
Michelangelo used bright colours, easily visible from the floor. On the lowest part of the ceiling he painted the ancestors of Christ. Above this he alternated male and female prophets, with Jonah over the altar. On the highest section, Michelangelo painted nine stories from the Book of Genesis. He was originally commissioned to paint only 12 figures, the Apostles. He turned down the commission because he saw himself as a sculptor, not a painter. The Pope offered to allow Michelangelo to paint biblical scenes of his own choice as a compromise. After the work was finished, there were more than 300. His figures showed the creation, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, and the Great Flood.