Monday, April 22, 2013

Sistine Chapel: Heart of Catholicism


There are few architectural works which witnessed many momentous events and shelters many
notable figures. As Sarnath is for Hinduism and the mosque Masjid al-Haram (in Mecca) for Islam, the Vatican City is the center of the Catholic religion. The Sistine Chapel is the heart.

The Sistine Chapel is the most famous chapel in the Apostolic Palace of the Vatican, the official residence of the Pope. It is located to the right of the Basilica of St. Peter and originally served as Vatican Fort Hood. It was built between 1477 and 1480, by order of Pope Sixtus IV, for whom it is named, to restore the former Chapel Magna.

It is famous for its architecture, evocative of Solomon's Temple of the Old Testament, and its decoration in fresco work of the greatest Renaissance artists including Raphael, Botticelli and Michelangelo. This last, by order of Pope Julius II decorated the vault (1.100 m²) between 1508 and 1512. A Michelangelo did not like this assignment, and thought his job was just to satisfy the need for grandeur of the Pope. However, today his work on the dome is considered the biggest achievement of Michelangelo in painting.

Since the time of Sixtus IV, the chapel has served as a place of various papal activities. Today is the seat of the conclave, the meeting at which the cardinals elect a new pope. During a conclave, a chimney is installed on the roof of the chapel, where the smoke acts as a signal. If white smoke, (fumata bianca), formed by burning the ballots from the election, means that it has elected a new pope. If no candidate receives a majority (two-thirds of the votes), black smoke (fumata nera).

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