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Take a virtual tour of the 500 yr old Sistine Chapel here!

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
November 1st, 2012
Catholic Online (

Today is the 500th anniversary of the completion of the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican. To commemorate the occasion, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated morning Vespers in the chapel. Michelangelo painted what is regarded as one of his greatest masterpieces between 1508 and 1512. 

ROME, ITALY (Catholic Online) - The Sistine chapel features nine panels completed by Michelangelo inspired by the story of our creation in Genesis. The most famous panel features God extending his hand to touch fingers with Adam, and infuse him with life. 

Michelangelo originally refused the request to paint the chapel ceiling, since he was a renown sculptor, not a painter. The artist feared he was being set up by his enemies to fail. 

Originally, Michelangelo was going to paint the 12 apostles on the ceiling, but found the concept unworkable. He eventually settled on painting scenes from the story of Genesis. 

Michelangelo then spent the next four years painting the chapel ceiling whilst atop a ladder. He was helped by several talented assistants. 

The chapel was restored in 1994. 

Today, millions of visitors come to the Vatican specifically to admire the Sistine Chapel. Pope john Paul II declared, "This is a priceless cultural and universal heritage. This is confirmed by the countless pilgrims from every nation in the world who come to admire the work of the supreme masters and to recognize in this Chapel a sort of wonderful synthesis of painting."

Despite its popularity as a tourist attraction, the chapel is still used as it was intended, for prayer. Visitors are respectfully asked to keep the sacred space quiet. It is also the place where papal elections are held. 

Behind the altar of the chapel, Michelangelo also painted a large fresco, "The Last Judgment." That scene depicts hundreds of people being judged by Christ with some carried into hell by demons. 

Clergy say they find the artwork inspiring and contemplative and that they frequently meditate on what they see in the paintings. 

For those who want to see the Sistine Chapel, the time to go is sooner rather than later. Efforts to preserve the work are putting pressure on officials to limit access to the painting. Experts cite the fact of two million breathing and perspiring visitors per year and the chemicals, dust, and pressure they exude into the room as degrading the work over time. 

For those who cannot visit the work in person, the Vatican does have the frescoes on virtual display in very high resolution on their website. Check it out here.

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