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Sistine Chapel Ceiling Fresco by Michelangelo

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The painting by Michelangelo of the Sistine Chapel ceiling is one of the most famous frescoes in the world.
Sistine Chapel

Seen as a whole, the Sistine Chapel ceiling fresco is overwhelming; there's simply too much to take in and it seems inconceivable that the fresco was designed by one artist.

Photo © Franco Origlia / Getty Images

The Sistine Chapel is a large chapel in the Apostolic Palace, the official residence of the Pope (the leader of the Catholic Church) in Vatican City. It has many frescoes painted in it, by some of the biggest names of the Renaissance, including wall frescoes by Bernini and Raphael, yet is most famous for the frescoes on the ceiling by Michelangelo.

Michelangelo was born on 6 March 1475, and died on 18 February 1564. Commissioned by Pope Julius II, Michelangelo worked on the Sistine Chapel ceiling from May 1508 to October 1512 (no work was done between September 1510 and August 1511). The chapel was inaugurated on 1 November 1512, on the Feast of All Saints.

The chapel is 40.23 meters long, 13.40 meters wide, and the ceiling 20.70 meters above the ground at its highest point1. Michelangelo painted a series of Biblical scenes, prophets and Christ's ancestors, as well as trompe l'oeil or architecture features. The main area of the ceiling depicts stories from stories of the book of Genesis, including the creation of mankind, the fall of man from grace, the flood and Noah.

• View a detail from the Sistine Chapel ceiling

More on the Sistine Chapel:
• About.com Italy Travel: The Sistine Chapel and Where to See Michelangelo's Art in Rome
Vatican Museums: Sistine Chapel
Virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel
History of the Sistine Chapel and its Frescoes

1 Vatican Museums: The Sistine Chapel, Vatican City State website, accessed 9 September 2010.

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