October 20, 2008

"Is The Sistine Chapel in Here?"

Before coming to Rome I did a small amount of research online to find the best places to go and see. Either it was on the list I was checking out and I missed it or it was in small print, but for some reason the Sistine Chapel was not on my list and I hate to admit it, but I didn’t even know it was in Rome until I overheard American tourists talking to each other at an outdoor artist market. I felt a little silly a) not knowing WHERE in Rome the Sistine Chapel was as well as b) not remembering from art history class that it was actually IN Rome. Either way, I am glad I overheard these tourists because after seeing St. Peter’s we walked our way to the Vatican Museum which I double-checked with the guy who worked at the information booth there that in fact this WAS the home of the Sistine Chapel (and was at the end of the museum). I of course prefaced it with “This is going to sound like a dumb question but I am sure you have heard worse…” The answer was yes and so we entered the museum.

From the main section we walked into, I felt that this museum was going to be just history about the Pope (not that there is anything wrong with that) and a little fieldtrip-esque. Well, was I ever wrong. This museum far surpassed my expectations. There were long rooms of marble busts, marble sculptures, large-scale paintings, long rooms of paintings that covered the whole rooms (the “Map Room” shown in photos above). Then after following sign after sign after sign with arrows and “Sistine Chapel” and taking one small staircase after another and each time entering a room thinking THIS would be IT… we FINALLY got to it. The piece de resistance of the museum ¬¬– THE Sistine Chapel.

I remember learning about it in art history and seeing just one or two slides of the interior of the chapel. Now I understand why I saw so little – the guard that works there takes his job quite seriously and there is under NO circumstance photography allowed of any kind as well as no talking. So folks, if you haven’t seen the ceiling my Michaelangelo I suggest you go because I can’t show you any pictures of it. I can tell you it was jaw-dropping as well as neck-tiring (try looking up at the ceiling for about 20 minutes; it was worse than sitting in the front row at the movie theater but well worth the soreness unlike most movies that you end up sitting in the front row for). Every single part of the chapel was covered in paint and such detailing given to all of it. Different scenes painted all around the ceiling and then on the slightly domed walls and then the entire way down. The chapel as well as the map room were the first real color explosion I had seen in the city.

I really hate to think that had I not overheard those American tourists that I would not have seen the Sistine Chapel; maybe oodles of American tourists in one city isn’t such a bad thing afterall – they did indirectly (me eavesdropping in the artists market and hearing about the Sistine Chapel) and directly (learning the proper way to make a wish in the Fountain) help our trip.

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