When I finished the last blog, I explained how we got a guided tour of the Necropolis of Vatican City and our guide took us through the Vatican Museum. This blog I am going to tell you all about the museum and Sistine Chapel.
Let me start of by telling you to buy your tickets online a week or more in advance. If you do not do this you will spend at least two hours waiting in line. By purchasing our tickets in advance, along with the Necropolis, we were inside within five minutes saying “sucker” to all the poor saps in line. ????
The museum began in 1506 when the statue of Laocoön and his Sons was unearthed in a vineyard. The Pope purchased the statue and displayed it a month later. This statue was one of the inspirations for Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. The museum is broken up into many parts and contains works of art in paintings, sculptures, tapestries, frescos, historical artifacts, and more. Take your time as you walk through this museum, since it is one of the largest in the world. Some of my highlights are:
– The spiral staircase, designed in 1932
– The gallery of maps
– The Sala Rotonda is shaped like a miniature Pantheon and has ancient sculptures lining the wall, a giant red marble fountain in the center, and beautiful mosaics on the floor
– In Pinecone Courtyard, we were able to rotate the sculpture of the earth and technology
– The marble zoo, hundreds of animal sculptures
– The various ceilings….they are a work of art themselves
Right before you enter the Sistine Chapel you can veer off and see the. These are part of the apartment Pope Julius II had Raphael design and paint in 1508. While Michelangelo was great at so many disciplines (sculpture, painter, architect, etc), Raphael was the master painter and it shows in these rooms! Do not miss them! There is a story that he was upset because he was the better painter, but Michelangelo was the one painting the chapel while he was painting an apartment.
Now we have reached the Sistine Chapel and it is breathtaking! It was built in 1477 and various artist contributed to decorating it, but it is the ceiling and front wall that get all the attention and rightfully so. Starting in 1508 Michelangelo painted around 5000 square feet by himself in four years. It really goes to show you what one man can accomplish when he puts him mind to it.
After hearing about the chapel and seeing the creation of man paining in the middle I had a misconception about it. I thought the entire ceiling was one painting of man and God floating on clouds interacting. Turns out I was very wrong. He broke it up into 3 groups of pictures. Around the windows he painted the ancestors of Jesus, the flat part of the ceiling he painted 9 scenes from Genesis (Creation of Man gets all the credit), and in between these he painted 12 prophets. There is one funny part in the ceiling where Michelangelo got mad at the Pope, so he painted a figure mooning him. Haha. While most people are checking out the ceiling, don’t forget the front wall where Michelangelo painted the Last Judgement. It is amazing how much of a story he was able to tell in this work of art.
Standing in the middle of the room looking up and marveling at the masterpiece that is the Sistine Chapel is moving. Even if there is quiet discussion between people it is a load hum and does not take away from you soaking in the moment…..That is until the guards come over the load speaker yelling “BE QUIET! NO PHOTO! NO VIDEO!” They are way more disruptive than the hundreds of people in the room admiring this wonder of the world.
When you have had your fill of the Sistine Chapel (there is a lot to take in so take your time and enjoy it) you have two choices on which exit to take. If you take the one on the left you will be taken through more of the museum and to the exit. The one on the right is the secret. This one is marked for tours only, but use it because it takes you to St Peter’s Basilica and will save you from having to wait in another line. I recommend taking the one to the left and seeing the rest of the museum, because it is worth it. Then when you are done make sure not to exit and walk through the museum again to the Sistine Chapel. Enjoy it once more and this time take the exit to the right to the basilica. This is where I will pick up in the next blog.