Skip to comments.The lesson of Sistine Chapel (What the Cardinals electors will see when they enter the Conclave)
Posted on 03/10/2013 11:12:54 AM PDT by NYer
When Cardinal electors enter the Sistine Chapel from the Sala Regia the first thing they see is Pietro Perugino's fresco The Handing of the Keys. Two monumental figures facing one another: Christ entrusts the keys of the Kingdom to his Vicar, and Peter on his knees receives them. All is harmony, solemnity, deep silence: the Primate of Peter and consequently of Roman Pontiffs is represented with majestic simplicity and striking naturalness.
However, when the Cardinal electors raise their eyes what they see is the Final Judgment by Michelangelo: the depiction of a scene that is the negation of what is described above. They see a sullen muscular Peter returning the keys to Christ the Judge. Because time has ended, history is no more. The Church has completed her mission. Anyone who sees the Final Judgement has the impression that they are looking not at a wall but into an infinite space made up of cold blue air. Anyone who enters the Sistine Chapel actually enters an extraordinary theological-scriptural riddle. And they enter a forest of the most fascinating images to have ever appeared under the heavens. If they turn their gaze to these 15th century frescos, the Cardinal electors see this correspondence, the mirroring of the Old and New Testaments.
But for the Cardinal electors, as for the other million people who every year linger in the Sistine Chapel, the main attraction being the frescos of Michelangelo. The Eternal Father who divides the light from darkness is an acrobat who pervades over the primordial nothingness. He is the turbine of creation, he is the sudden flash from which it all began. Thus Michelangelo gave an image to his idea of the Big Bang.
Yet, it is the Final Judgement that most attracts the attention of the Cardinal electors. There are so many things in the Final Judgement. There is the Church triumphant set in a semicircle around the heavenly Judge. There are angels and demons who fight for the souls of the resurrected, there is the fire of hell, that seethes and flares from the cracks in the earth. There is the anamorphic caricature of the artist himself, given to the flayed skin, that St Bartholomew displays, the symbol of his martyrdom.
The true theological fire of the composition, the terrifying warning to the Cardinal electors and for every Christian, is at the highest point of the fresco, there where the whirlwind of angels in flight carry the instruments of the Passion: the pillar of the Scourging, the Cross, the Crown of Thorns, the Holy Sponge. For each and every person they are the testimonial proof in the court of the Last Judgement. Because Christ died for us, we will be judged. By our fidelity to the Cross we shall be saved or we shall be damned.
Take a 360 degree tour of the Sistine Chapel!
Thanks so much for posting!!
Its a beautiful place. We visited the Vatican Museum in ‘97.
The entire museum is a must see if in Rome.
The colors in the restoration are amazing!
In our old art books, years ago, it was darkened with centuries of soot.
Thanks for your post. I think if someone like Scott Hahn or even Glenn Beck did this topic it would be much more interesting however.
Great topic however for a more “apologetics and theological” elaboration.
LOL. Good one! Yeah I hope she found a new line of work!
I have a very large book, purchased decades ago, that contains all the images from the Sistine Chapel, prior to its restoration. In the cleansing process, they discovered and removed "cover ups" that had been painted over ... ahem ... sensitive areas.
Here is another which shows the amazing transformation.
You can find more images at The Restoration of the Sistine Chapel
The preservation did not end with the frescoes. In order to further protect them from the dust, humidity and heat of the 20,000 visitors that visit the chapel each day, a new system was installed last year that vacuums and cools them down. You can read about it here.
The Bright colors of the Restoration confounded the “Art Experts” who, for many years had interpreted the dark, brooding colors with all kinds of theories about Michelangelo (alleged depression, repressed homosexuality, anger, despair, pessimism, etc) when actually the colors were the result of 500 years of good, old-fashioned DIRT! Ha Ha Ha.
I just LOVE it when that happens!
I knew about the “paint-overs”. So silly that the damned will be sent to hell wearing DIAPERS! Ha Ha Ha!
I Love the Sistine Chapel. Thanks for the virtual tour. I spent a long time there.
We have some great Stations in my church, which were painted around 1887 and are copies of the Stations that are in the Pauline Chapel (the Pope’s private chapel in the Vatican). They were brought back from Rome sometime after the Cathedral burned in 1887 and our bishop went to Rome.
When I first saw them, about 8 years ago, I wondered why they had bothered to bring them back. They were murky and you could barely make out what was happening in them.
And then about 5 years ago, they sent the paintings out for cleaning. I happened to be there when they were reinstalling them, and I honestly couldn’t believe they were the same paintings. Nothing dark, nothing murky, and actually subtle but bright and evocative (the original early 19th century painter, Johann Frederick Overbeck, was a “Nazarene,” a movement considered the predecessor of the Pre-Raphaelites).
It’s amazing what a little professional cleaning can do for a painting.
Even more modern works, like those of Cezanne and Monet, look entirely different when they are restored.
They used to VARNISH Paintings...and that stuff could get quite nasty over the years!
made the trek thru the chapel and some of the museums a couple years ago.. had about 10 minutes as we were herded thru the chapel itself. amazing place to visit, wish I could have seen the tombs of the Popes. n matter,, well worth the visit soot or no. :-}
Now ... you can! VIRTUAL TOUR - VATICAN NECROPOLIS
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