The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums. Other sites include the Gregorian Egyptian Museum, Gregorian Etruscan Museum, Belvedere Palace, Vatican Historical Museum, and many other venues.
The Sistine Chapel was built between 1475 and 1483 during the time of Pope Sixtus IV.
It is best known for its elaborately painted ceiling, created by famed Renaissance artist Michelangelo. No trip to Italy is complete without viewing the magnificent work of this world-renowned figure in art history, who was also an architect, sculptor, and poet.
The Chapel was constructed based on the dimensions of the Temple of Solomon, as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible. The first Mass was held on August 9, 1483.
Pope Julius II commissioned Michelangelo to repaint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in 1508, which was originally a sky scene. He did his work lying on his back on scaffolding he built himself. He was originally commissioned to paint the Twelve Apostles, but in the end he painted over 300 figures.
The ceiling features many different individual works of art. According to the Sistine Chapel's website, "Michelangelo placed nine Central stories illustrating episodes of the Genesis...with at their sides figures of Nudes, holding medallions with texts taken from the Book of Kings. At the base of the architectural structure twelve Prophets and Sibyls seated on monumental thrones are countered lower down by Christ's forefathers, portrayed in the Webs and in the Lunettes (north wall, south wall, entrance wall). Finally, in the four corner Pendentives, the artist illustrated some episodes of the miraculous salvation of the people of Israel."
Michelangelo painted The Last Judgment over the altar between 1535 and 1541.
The works are frescoes, which is defined as “the art of painting on freshly spread moist lime plaster with water-based pigments” by Merriam-Webster.
The Sistine Chapel, located north of St. Peter’s Basilica, underwent a full restoration that was completed in 1994.
If you aren't planning a trip to Italy any time soon, you can take a “virtual tour” of the Sistine Chapel at Vatican Museums Online.