The Sistine Chapel was opened 501 years ago today, November 1, 1512. It is the Pope’s private chapel. Takes its name from the man who commissioned it, Pope Sixtus IV: “Sixtus” in Italian is “Sisto”. 5 million people a year visit the chapel. The chapel’s paintings cover 12,000 sq ft (1,110 sq m), about one-sixth the size of a football field. Contrary to popular belief, Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel in a standing position. But it was still very uncomfortable. He even wrote a poem about it:
“I’ve already grown a goiter from this torture, stomach’s squashed under my chin,” that his “face makes a fine floor for droppings,” that his “skin hangs loose below me” and that his “spine’s all knotted from folding myself over.” He ended that he should not have changed his day job: “I am not in the right place—I am not a painter.”
The election of a new pope has been held in the Sistine Chapel, with other locations, since 1492, but as the sole venue only since 1870.
“Without having seen the Sistine Chapel one can form no appreciable idea of what one man is capable of achieving.”
—Johann Wolfgang Goethe, 23 August 1787