Probably nowhere in the world you will find such a famous decorated interior as the Sistine Chapel . In this guide you will learn all about the Sistine Chapel – frescoes and paintings, entrance, where to buy tickets, what the opening hours are and when to visit the Sistine Chapel.
Updated 22. 3. 2022
- Sistine Chapel
- Opening hours
- Tickets and admission
- When to visit the Sistine Chapel
- Tips before visiting
- Map of Vatican
The Sistine Chapel was built between 1473 and 1481 by Pope Sixtus IV, who named the chapel after himself. From then until today, conclaves have been held here, ie gatherings of cardinals who vote here to become the next pope.
The exterior of the Chapel is not what attracts so many visitors. On the contrary, it looks inconspicuous from the outside and resembles a fortress. What attracts 20,000 people a day are the beautiful frescoes above the ceiling and the painting above the altar. The chapel is over 40 m long, 13 m wide and 20 m high.
Frescoes on the ceiling
The frescoes on the ceiling by the Italian sculptor Michelangelo are the most famous paintings in the Sistine Chapel. Most visitors automatically turn their heads up upon arrival at the chapel. The frescoes depict scenes from the Old Testament and are full of naked male bodies, which Michelangelo represented were deities.
The whole ceiling seems to open to the sky. At its highest point stretches a central strip with 9 scenes from the book of Genesis, which follow each other from the altar wall chronologically according to the Bible. Each scene is framed by a frame that looks real, not just painted.
The original ceiling in the Chapel was blue with stars. It was not until 1508 that Pope Julius II called. Michelangelo of Florence to paint the ceiling of his private chapel, which serves as a conclave (new popes are elected here). Michelangelo was not entirely thrilled because he was a sculptor and did not have much experience in organizing a painting project of this magnitude. In addition, he was working on the tomb of Julius II. In front of him, Raphael and Bramante received an offer to paint the Sistine Chapel, but they both refused. Michelangelo began working on the frescoes at the age of 32 and completed them in just 4 years in 1512. During his work, he struggled with a number of complications, which he often caused by his own not-so-warm behavior. He had to build his own scaffolding, turned down his assistants, and painted everything upright so that colored pigments fell into his eyes.
In addition, he was forced to work very quickly precisely because of the technique of fresco painting, where he paints on wet plaster, so the painting must be finished before the plaster dries. The fresco in Italian means fresh . The most famous fresco on the ceiling of the Creation of Adam was therefore completed in just 9 days.
Michelangelo received 3,000 ducats for the roof frescoes, which equals $ 80,000 today.
The Last Judgement
At the age of 61, Michelangelo was called back to the Vatican to paint the Last Judgment on the great wall behind the altar. The painting lasted him for 5 years and depicts the story of Christ who separated who will enter heaven and who will go to hell. In painting, Michelangelo used the extremely expensive pigment lapis lazuli from Afghanistan.
The pope’s ceremonialists did not like the amount of nudity on the fresco and even suggested that the wall belonged to the brothel rather than the Sistine Chapel. This angered Michelangelo so much that he painted the ceremonialist on the lower right side as an underworld judge with donkey ears and a snake wrapped around his neck. A year later, after Michelangelo’s death, at the instigation of Pope Paul IV. the Italian painter Daniele da Volterra covered many of these figures with draped clothes, as we see today.
If you look at St. Bartholomew, who is sitting on a cloud in the middle of a painting, you will see that he is holding a knife towards Christ and at the same time holding his own skin. The knife represents the weapon with which he was martyred, and the face of the skin is not St. Bartholomew’s, but Michelangelo’s. According to many, the artist showed how he felt for many years working for the church.
Pictures of Quattrocento
Michelangelo’s frescoes literally overshadowed paintings by other great artists. They were here even earlier. Pope Sixtus IV. after the completion of the Chapel, he called in the 5 greatest Florentine artists of the time, who were known as masters of the Quattrocentrum (Botticelli, Perugino, Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio, Rosselli). Their task was to paint the walls of the Sistine Chapel in their middle. On the north wall you will see frescoes from the life of Christ and the south wall tells the life of Moses.
The frescoes of the Sistine Chapel passed at the end of the 20th century. century with extensive restoration that lasted 14 years. The restoration was financed by the Japanese television company Nippon in exchange for photo copyrights until 2019. That is why there was a ban on photography in the Chapel for years, which remained in force.
The entrance to the Sistine Chapel is through the Vatican Museums . If you don’t stop anywhere in the museums and take the main route, you will walk to the Sistine Chapel in about half an hour. You cannot leave the Vatican Museums without visiting the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel can be reached from Viale Vaticano, about 10 minutes from Ottaviano and Cipro Metro Stations (Metro Line A; Roma Pass is free). You will come to the walls of the Vatican, where you will already see signs for the Vatican Museums. The second option is to enter the Vatican from St. Peter’s Square through the Basilica of St. Petra. After a tour of the basilica, you continue 15 minutes to the entrance to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
The opening hours of the Sistine Chapel vary according to the season and do not coincide with the opening hours of the Vatican Museums. In the high season, the Sistine Chapel is open from Mon-Sat 9: 00-18: 00 and the last Sun in the month 9: 00-14: 00. Out of season you can go here from Mon-Sat 9: 00-16: 00 and last Sun in the month 9: 00-14: 00
When is the Sistine Chapel closed?
It is closed on all Sundays except the last one, when admission is free. The Sistine Chapel is also closed on Catholic holidays:
- 1st January
- January 6 at the Three Kings
- February 11 on the Vatican Independence Day
- March 19 on the day of St. Joseph, the Father Jesus
- Easter Monday
- May 1 to celebrate the workers
- June 29 on the feast of St. Peter and Paul
- 14. a 15. srpna na oslavy Nanebevzetí Panny Marie
- November 1, All Saints’ Day
- December 8 to celebrate the Feast of the Immaculate Conception
- 25. a 26. prosince na oslavu k narození Ježíše Krista
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums. Admission for visiting the Sistine Chapel and the Vatican Museums is € 17 and reduced admission for students aged 19-26 is € 8. Children and teenagers under 18 are free.
Where to buy tickets to the Sistine Chapel? You must book the ticket online in advance for an additional fee (plus the option to skip the queue). You choose a specific time for which you should then arrive (+ – 15 minutes). You can also choose a guided tour . During the season, order at least a few days in advance so that tickets are not sold out.
- Ticket to the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel with a queue
- Guided tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel
- Tour of the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel at night
When visiting the Vatican Museums, everyone wants to see the Sistine Chapel. Sometimes it’s even the main reason why people come here. The only thing that follows is that it is often full and you move at a snail’s pace during the season. The queues start before the entrance and it doesn’t matter if you choose to enter through the Basilica of St. Petra or from Viale Vaticano (official entrance for the Vatican Museums ).
So when is the best time to visit the Sistine Chapel? November, January, February and March until Easter are the quietest months with the smallest crowds. The main season begins in the Vatican after Easter and especially in the summer months (June, July, August) there is the greatest influx of tourists.
As for the time of day, I recommend visiting the Sistine Chapel after lunch. The later in the afternoon, the fewer people. Most visitors plan their visit in the morning with the understanding that no one will be here. Guided groups will also arrive in the morning. If you plan to visit the first basilica of St. Peter, you can go here at 7 o’clock, when it opens. There are no queues like this early in the morning.
Choose quieter days Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. It is full on Saturdays, Mondays and Wednesdays, when the Pope has an audience on St. Peter’s Square between 12 and 1 pm (in winter, in the hall to the left of the basilica). Thousands of people come to see the pope and many of them plan to visit the Basilica of St. Peter and the Vatican Museums with the Sistine Chapel.
I do not recommend visiting the Sistine Chapel on the last Sunday of the month. Admission is free, but queues can be several hours. But if you want to save some euros, come at 8 o’clock and join the queue (museums open at 9 o’clock).
- There is a cafeteria in the Vatican Museums where you can eat, but to be honest, the food is not very good. I recommend eating in advance because you will spend a lot of time here and the tour can be exhausting.
- There is another point to this – take comfortable shoes. There’s a lot of walking around. If you go around everything, the route is 7.5 kilometers long.
- Photography is forbidden in the Sistine Chapel. You can take pictures in the Vatican Museums, but without a flash.
- Toilets are right at the entrance and exit and in several other places in the museum.
- Dress appropriately. Feel free to wear jeans and a T-shirt, but cover your knees, shoulders, abdomen, or take your hat off your head. Sometimes the control is milder and will let you in, even if you run into stricter control, you won’t get inside.
- The Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel are part of the Roma & Vatican Pass .
HOW TO USE THIS MAP: Above you will find a detailed map of Vatican. Click at the top left of the map to see separate layers with highlighted locations. You can hide and show the different layers or click on the icons on the map to show the names of the places I mention in the Sistine Chapel guide. If you want to save the map, star it. For a larger version, click on the icon in the upper right corner.
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