Sistine Chapel: A Guide to See the Top Masterpieces!
The Sistine Chapel is a religious and artistic paradise, standing at the heart of the Vatican City in Rome.
Famous for its beautiful Renaissance fresco paintings, this chapel is known to be the crown jewel of the Vatican Museums, attracting over six million visitors annually.
Visitors planning to explore the Sistine Chapel might be overwhelmed by the many paintings covering the walls.
Read further to discover the frescos you must see so you don’t miss out on the best!
Best Sistine Chapel Painting
The best painting in the Sistine Chapel is the Creation of Adam, a fresco by Michelangelo on the ceiling.
It is known for its artistic composition and significance, of God giving humans the fruit of knowledge directly.
Another great fresco in the Sistine Chapel is The Last Judgment, created on the altar wall by Michelangelo.
It depicts the Second Coming of Christ and the final judgment being passed on all souls.
Art lovers and believers in Christ should also pay close attention to the main panels on the ceiling.
The ceiling has brilliant frescos by Michelangelo.
Discover the Vatican Museum’s most priceless masterpiece by delving into our comprehensive article on the subject.
Highlights of the Sistine Chapel
As soon as you enter the Chapel, you will be mesmerized by the splendor and color surrounding you.
All the walls in the Sistine Chapel are covered with over 500 paintings of Biblical figures by renowned artists from all over the world!
Here are some of the masterpieces that all visitors must see on their Chapel visit!
The Sistine Chapel Ceiling
The most famous portion of the Sistine Chapel is the beautiful ceiling, full of frescos by Michelangelo Buonarroti.
Over 300 paintings cover every crevice of the ceiling, and first-time visitors might be confused by the chaos.
We recommend you begin by looking at the central nine panels on the ceiling.
● The Creation of Adam
When you look up, right at the ceiling’s center is a painting of God stretching out his hand to a nude man.
Michelangelo’s Creation of Adam is the most famous Sistine Chapel painting!
It symbolizes the never-ending capacity for knowledge that human beings possess, which God gifted.
● The Flood
If you look ahead in the same line on the ceiling, you will observe an exciting piece about the Deluge from the story of Noah’s Ark!
This fresco by Michelangelo captures details of the coming storm and flood, with Noah’s Ark in the distance.
It might be hard to observe the details closely, as the painting is so high above.
Michelangelo painted the fresco in a way that makes you able to identify the calmness in Noah’s Ark because of the stark color difference from the other side of the painting.
● Banishment from Garden of Eden
Another major highlight from the ceiling’s central panels is the painting of Eve and Adam being removed from the Gardens of Eden.
Michelangelo captures the emotions of grief and regret on the faces of Adam and Eve in detail, making the piece seem alive.
You can also see the Tree of Knowledge in the fresco painting!
We recommend that you look closely at all the main panels on the ceiling, as they are from major Biblical stories.
● David & Goliath
Most visitors remained so focused on the central panels that they forgot to see the other small frescos on the Michelangelo Sistine Chapel ceiling.
You must have heard of the brave story of Giant Goliath being struck down by David.
This painting at the corner of the ceiling precisely captures the image of Goliath on the floor and David with a sword raised behind him.
● Judith & Holofernes
This frightening painting of Judith carrying the head of Holofern’s head is bound to capture your attention!
It was an important event in the Bible and will forever be remembered by visitors who see the painting at the Sistine Chapel.
The Last Judgment
Another of Michelangelo’s stunning fresco paintings is the huge Last Judgment portrayed on the wall behind the altar.
Visitors can see the painting of Christ at the center of the wall, from where he passes judgment on all souls.
The Last Judgment depicts the second coming of Jesus, where all sinners will be sent into hell and the others saved in heaven, as per the painting.
Michelangelo captures the emotions of each human figure on the wall in detail, from happiness to despair.
Check out our article on Michelangelo in Vatican City to discover other stunning works by this brilliant artist!
On the North Wall
It may take some time to get to the front wall and see The Last Judgment piece completely because of the crowd.
You can begin by observing the paintings on the North and South walls!
Here are some of the must-see paintings on the North wall:
● The Baptism of Christ
This is the first painting you will come across on entering the Sistine Chapel on the North Wall.
The Baptism of Christ is a fresco by Pietro Perugino and Pinturicchio, who painted some minor background details.
It depicts the biblical scene of Christ being baptized with a white dove flying over his head at the center of the piece.
Visitors can also see a depiction of God claiming Jesus as his son, with Angels flying in the sky.
It is a complex scene where you can see Jesus and John the Baptist preaching to the disciples on either side of the painting in the background.
● The Temptation of Christ
The next painting on the wall in line with The Baptism of Christ is The Temptation of Christ.
The famous Italian Renaissance painter Sandro Botticelli painted this fresco on the North Wall.
It depicts the Biblical scene of Jesus being tempted in the desert by the Devil at the top right corner.
Critics believe that the painting showcases the sacrifice Jesus is making for mankind, as the leper sacrifices himself for Jesus after being healed.
● Sermon on the Mount
This fresco by Cosimo Rosselli has great religious significance for Christians, as it depicts a biblical scene with deep significance.
You can see Jesus standing on a cliff, surrounded by commoners, and he preaches about rules Christians must follow.
These rules, also known as the Beatitudes, must be followed by all who want to go to heaven.
Visitors can learn more about the values of Christianity and their teachings from a professional tour guide for a better experience.
● Handing of the Keys to Saint Peter
Painted by Pietro Perugino, the Handing Over of the Keys painting is the third most popular painting in the Sistine Chapel!
It depicts an important scene in the Bible and is famous for its intricate human details and clarity.
You can see St. Peter kneeling and accepting the keys to heaven at the center of the painting.
In the background of the painting, you can see the stoning of Christ on the right and the Temple of Jerusalem in the center.
● The Last Supper
The Last Supper painting by Cosimo Rosselli and Biagio d’Antonio is the final painting near the altar on the North Wall.
The painting depicts a horseshoe-shaped table, surrounded by Jesus and his Disciples having their last supper together.
It is a very important biblical scene before Jesus’s crucifixion and has deep meaning.
As you look up at the North wall of the Sistine Chapel, you will see many paintings of saints and other important biblical figures.
On the South Wall
Once you get to the front and have seen The Last Judgment piece, pay attention to the paintings on the South Wall while leaving.
Some of the paintings that stand out on the Sistine Chapel’s South wall are:
● Moses Leaving Egypt or Journey of Moses in Egypt
This fresco by Pietro Perugino depicts the journey of the Prophet Moses in Egypt.
It is placed opposite The Baptism of Christ on the opposite wall, near the entrance of the Sistine Chapel.
You can see Moses talking to an Angel while being followed by dozens of people at the center of the painting.
● Events in the Life of Moses
Religious visitors can dive into the life of Moses by observing the Events in the Life of Moses painting on the South Wall.
You can see the experiences Moses had in his youth in this painting by Botticelli.
● Passage of the Red Sea
Passage of the Red Sea is one of the miracles that happened in the Bible, where Moses divided the sea to let the Israelites escape.
The painting depicts Moses and his followers standing on land, safe across the Sea, as the soldiers drown in the waters.
You can see the forces of nature raging a storm against the Egyptians to punish them for keeping the Israelites captive.
● Handing Over the Tablets of the Law
Similar to the Beatitudes, the Commandments are seven rules given to Christians to follow.
The painting beautifully captures Moses receiving the Commandments from God.
Visitors can also see the scene of his followers worshipping the Golden Calf and Moses breaking the Commandment tablets to punish them.
You can also see the prophet Joshua standing beside Moses in all scenes in this painting by Rosselli.
● Legacy and Death of Moses
Visitors will recognize Moses in his yellow and green garments, replicated in all paintings in the Sistine Chapel.
This final painting has a depiction of Moses speaking to a crowd of people in the foreground.
In the background of this stunning piece, you can see Moses receiving a command baton from an Angel.
This indicates that he was chosen to lead the people from Israel to the land promised to them by God.
On the Entrance Wall
Before you leave the Sistine Chapel, don’t forget to check out the Entrance wall!
Most visitors don’t pay attention to the art on this wall since they entered from this direction.
You will also find less crowd here as most people rush to the altar on entry.
● The Resurrection of Christ
This magnificent painting by Ghirlandaio has a very divine and ethereal feel because of its bright colors.
You can see a stunning depiction of the soldiers running away, as the triumphant Christ rises from the tomb.
Besides this painting is the fresco of Discussion over the Body of Moses.
You can also see paintings of Popes from the past on the top of the entrance wall, as the Sistine Chapel is where new Popes are appointed.
Things required to explore the masterpieces of the Sistine Chapel: The Sistine Chapel Tickets
The only thing that you need to immerse yourself in the artworks of the Sistine chapel is the tickets that grant access to the chapel.
Visitors who plan to visit the Sistine Chapel must have the Vatican Museums entry ticket.
This entry ticket grants you access to the Vatican Museums as well as the Sistine Chapel.
These entry tickets are available at the entrance, but we recommend you buy them online to save time and avoid crowded lines.
The standard entry tickets for the Sistine Chapel allow visitors to skip the line and explore the complete Vatican Museum and Chapel for €31.
Children 6 to 17 years old receive a discounted price of €20, and infants below 6 years can visit for free!
History buffs will enjoy taking a guided tour of the Sistine Chapel, Vatican Museums, and St. Peter’s Basilica for €70.
Learn more about the Vatican and Sistine Chapel Tickets.
Tips on How to See the Sistine Chapel for the Best Experience!
Here are some tips on seeing the Sistine Chapel so you can prepare for the visit in advance!
- Book your Sistine Chapel tickets in advance to avoid standing in long queues, as the Chapel is always crowded.
- Wear comfortable shoes for the visit.
- Avoid wearing shorts, t-shirts, dresses, hats, etc., to the Sistine Chapel. Wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts to follow the dress code guidelines.
- Maintain silence in the Chapel as it is a holy place. Avoid making noise outside the Chapel as well.
- Instead of trying to get to the front as soon as you enter, spend time observing the North and South walls.
- Arrive early in the morning for the least crowd.
- Do not touch the frescos on the walls when visiting the Sistine Chapel.
- Respect the religious services happening in the Chapel on your visit.
FAQs for Things to See at the Sistine Chapel
What do you see in the Sistine Chapel?
The Sistine Chapel is a paradise for art lovers and religious people.
It is the center of the Papal Conclave and has beautiful biblical artwork on all its walls.
You can see the famous frescos by Michelangelo at the Sistine Chapel.
What is the best part of the Sistine Chapel?
The ceiling is the most beautiful and famous part of the Sistine Chapel.
People also enjoy seeing The Last Judgment fresco by Michelangelo on the altar wall.
What is the most famous scene in the Sistine Chapel?
The Creation of Adam, painted on the Sistine Chapel ceiling, is the most famous scene.
How much time do you need at the Sistine Chapel?
The average time to observe all Sistine Chapel paintings is three hours.
The time will change depending on the crowds and how long you stop at each piece.
Is a tour of the Sistine Chapel worth it?
Yes, a Sistine Chapel tour allows history buffs and art lovers to learn much more about the Sistine Chapel.
It will also cover the entire Vatican Museum and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Can you enter St. Peter’s Basilica from the Sistine Chapel?
Yes, you can enter St. Peter’s Basilica from the Sistine Chapel.
There is a small passage to the right of the Chapel, which leads directly to the Basilica.
Can I use my phone in the Sistine Chapel?
No, you cannot use your phone in the Sistine Chapel.
What is the dress code for the Sistine Chapel?
It is advisable to wear long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Avoid wearing hats, dresses, or anything with a low cut.
T-shirts, ripped jeans, and shorts are also not appropriate for the Sistine Chapel.
Featured Image: Cnn.com