9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It

There are some fascinating facts about the chapel that you might not know.
Donovan Alexander

You know it. You have heard about it. Perhaps you have even had the fortunate opportunity to visit it. The Sistine Chapel is one of the places so historic and iconic that it is constantly revisited by artists and historians alike. The ceiling that looks down on eager visitors in the chapel is probably one of the most famous frescoes in the world. 

Unsurprisingly, the Sistine Chapel is one of the most visited and valued historic sites in Rome. Residing in the Apostolic Palace, which is the official residence of the big guy himself, the Pope, the centuries-old building rests comfortably in Vatican City. 


However, you probably already know these tidbits of information. Yet, how much do you know about the Sistine Chapel and its equally fascinating and mythic history? Did you know that the artist Michelangelo is not the only artist there? Or, how about that it goes back all the way to the 15 century? If not, today you are in luck. 

Today we are going to explore some of the most interesting facts about this renowned chapel so that you are all prepared for your eventual trip there. 

1. Taking inspiration from the Temple of Solomon 

9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It
Source: Maus-Trauden/Wikimedia

Now if you know anything about Biblical lore, you definitely know about the great Old Testament character, King Solomon. The story goes that God himself came to Solomon and asked him to build a massive temple with very specific dimensions. The Sistine Chapel is modeled off of these very same measurements found in the Old Testament. 

The rectangular chapel measurements found in the interior of the building comes out to 40.9 meters long by 13.4 meters wide, very similar to King Solomon’s creation. However, it is important to note that there is a vocal group of scholars who also believe this is not true and that the building was modeled off of standard renaissance proportions. 

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2. It was built for worship and defense 

Now the Sistine Chapel was created for very specific purposes. In short, the construction of the Chapel was driven by a need to have a building that would withstand an attack against the Vatican. Taking one good look at the Vatican and you might be taken aback by the building’s imposing, sturdy, and high walls. The building was also used as a place of worship for the clergy and for select elites. 

3. The Sistine Chapel is very old

9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It
Prior to having its ceiling painted. Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia 

To give you a fact inside a fact, (fact inception?) the construction of the Sistine Chapel started in 1475, the same year Michelangelo was born. And as for why the name was selected for the chapel, the name Cappella Sistina in Italian derives itself from the man who commissioned it, Pope Sixtus IV. For the uninitiated, Sixtus, in Italian is Sisto. The first official mass for the chapel occurred on August 15, 1483

4. Michelangelo is not the only masterful artist there

9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It
Work by Sandro Botticelli. Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia

You have for sure seen some of Michelangelo's from the Sistine Chapel, so much so, you might even think he is the only artist that contributed to the chapel's sublime fresco. However, that is not the case at all. Artists like Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli, and Pietro Perugino all have contributed to the Sistine Chapel. 

9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It
Work by Pietro Perugino. Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia 

Even more so, the artists brought in to elevate the chapel to historic status were also responsible for bringing Renaissance art to Rome. 

5. Michelangelo did not think he was the person for the job

9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It
Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia

We have all been there. We are given and selected for a tremendous opportunity only to second guess ourselves and our talent. The great Michelangelo felt the exact same way when he was commissioned to paint the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo believed that he was simply a sculptor and nothing more. 

Michelangelo dreaded the project with a huge sense of paranoia; so much so that he believed that his enemies were setting him up for failure. Nevertheless, his contributions to the chapel would transcend the times.  Michelangelo was only supposed to paint the 12 Apostles in a vaulted nook. Yet, he also ended up painting the entire 12,000 square foot ceiling.

6. No, Michelangelo did not paint on his back

One of the most common myths surrounding that massive ceiling is that Michelangelo painted it on his back. In fact, this is false. He did, however, build a specific platform that allowed him to stand upright and actually complete his project, placing him only a few inches from it. 

7. God is there 

Michelangelo's depiction of God first and foremost was revolutionary for its time; this idea of a great white-haired being covered in muscles. Earlier paintings of God simply referred to the being like a hand in the clouds. Even more so God is depicted six separate times throughout the frescoes on the chapel. 

8. As expected, it is visited by a lot of people

If you are ever planning to visit the Sistine Chapel, try to avoid going during the high season as this place can get very crowded. Even more so, you want to be able to experience all the beauty of the iconic building. Nevertheless, it has been estimated that some 25,000 people a day or 5 million people a year visit the chapel. 

Even more so, expect to pay upon visiting the chapel. Entry to the Vatican Museum and the Chapel are going to cost you about 16 Euros. As you can imagine, this fee generates a lot of revenue for the Vatican every year.  

9. Do not expect to take pictures

9 Facts About the Sistine Chapel That You Should Know Before You Visit It
Source: Public Domain/Wikimedia 

Perhaps this one is for the better. Upon entering the main hall of the Sistine Chapel, visitors are reminded that they are not allowed to take photos inside the chapel. Yet, the story goes much deeper than that. The Nippon Television Network at one point had exclusive rights to photography and video for all the art in the chapel. The contract is now expired, but the Vatican has kept that rule to this day. 

What is your favorite part of the Sistine Chapel?

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