The Sistine Chapel, one of the landmarks to human ingenuity and artistic expression, should definitely be on the top of every persons list of places to see before they die. This Chapel, inaugurated in 1483, forms part of the Apostolic Palace – the official residence of the Pope in the Vatican City. The chapel is therefore the very heart of Roman Catholicism and this is reflected by the absolute beauty and craftsmanship this chapel is known for.
The most famous element of this chapel is its ceiling, which is a collection of frescos executed by Michelangelo. It is seen as the pinnacle of High Renaissance art and forms part of a larger narrative reflected in the frescos on the walls and of course the well-known The Last Judgment. The ceiling was painted between 1508 and 1512 and reflects the most prominent aspects of Roman Catholic doctrine – and is subsequently viewed as highly important to Roman Catholic culture.
Of the various ceiling frescos, the most well-known is the depiction of nine scenes from the book of Genesis. Here The Creation of Adam has left an indelible mark on world history and culture – being reflected, satirized and imitated by almost every culture and society in the world at some point. Along with Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, The Creation of Adam is seen as the most well-known and famous painting in the world.
The Last Judgment is found on the altar wall of the chapel, and depicts the Second Coming of Christ. Taking four years to complete between 1536 and 1541 – 25 years after completing the Sistine Chapel ceiling – this forms one the most intricate and nuanced of works executed by Michelangelo. It sees the rising of souls to heaven and others descending to their damned fates as Christ judges them. Prominent saints are seen surrounding Jesus Christ, including Paul, Sebastian and John the Baptist.
Some of the most revolutionary aspects of this depiction are the nudity of all the figures, along with the ascending of souls to the left and the descending of souls to the right – creating a divide between the blessed and the damned. This revolutionary perspective was further reflected in the use of vivid and saturated coloring, such as oranges, blues and greens.
It is therefore clear why the Sistine Chapel is regarded as one of the most important historical landmarks – not only for its artistic beauty but for its revolutionary depictions of Biblical accounts – interpretations that still influence contemporary thinking and narratives. Visiting the Sistine Chapel is therefore both a highly enjoyable but also richly fulfilling experience – both culturally and spiritually one becomes aware of the immense creative potential of humanity whilst simultaneously experiencing a cornerstone of one the world's most influential and oldest religions: Christianity.
There is no doubt why the Sistine Chapel is on the top of UNESCO's list of world heritage sites, for it encapsulates so much history, heritage and culture within its walls that any person – young or old, rich or poor, male or female, will find it an experience of a lifetime!