Rome (Vatican City): The Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
A visit to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel with Michelangelo’s Last Judgment is one of the highlights of a spiritual pilgrimage to the Eternal City. The general term “Vatican Museums” covers almost 5 miles of exhibition space. The Museums contain vast amounts of paintings, sculptures, tapestries, manuscripts and much more. Your admission ticket will include only a portion of the total of the exhibits.
“Religious art expresses the faith of the Church, the theological vision of the Christian community. It is prayer, a song of praise, a theology in colors, a symphonic expression, and a prism of a thousand lights, of the Word who became man and dwelt among us, thus making himself visible and tangible. Religious art is catechesis because it is a radiation of God in Christ…it immerses people in beauty, which is Truth. Art needs to be rediscovered as an instrument through which the spiritual reality of the world and the truth that this contains can be rendered present. In this sense, the beauty of Christian art is a hymn of joy and hope. Beauty, like truth, brings joy to the heart of humanity and is a positive consequence which outlives time, unites one generation to the next and helps them to communicate in an atmosphere of admiration.” (Quotes from The Official Vatican Guide for the Jubilee Year 2000).
The Sistine Chapel is considered part of the Vatican Museums. The frescoes, painted by Michelangelo at two different periods of his artistic life (1508-1512 and 1536-1541) and for two different popes complete the paintings on the lower section of the walls which were done by other painters. They represent the continuity of Old and New Testament theology. The focal point of the vault is the Creation of Man, in which God the Father, with a touch of his hand, instills life and soul into Man, still free of sin and depicted in his perfect human form. But in the Last Judgment (on the end wall), Michelangelo depicts the drama of humanity now aware of sin and of the instruments necessary for salvation: faith and the Church.
Unless you are traveling with a group, you will need to arrange for tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Tickets cover admission to both.
Click here for the official website where you can order tickets in advance.
Of course, if you cannot order in advance, you can stand in line for them, but the wait can be quite long during busy times of the year, so if it is at all possible then try to order them in advance either through the official website or a private company.
An interesting opportunity awaits those visiting Rome in the months of May through October (except August), when the Vatican Museums are open to the public every Friday evening from 7:00 to 11:00 p.m.
Admission is free and concerts are performed each evening as well. Even if you are traveling with a tour group that will have a Vatican Museums tour during the day, you might want to consider this on your own if you are going to be in Rome on a Friday.
And either before or after your visit, stop for some Gelato at the Old Bridge Gelateria. It is just across from the entrance to the museums and one of the best Gelaterias in Rome!
Click here for the official website of the Vatican Museums
Click here for an excellent audio tour of the Sistine Chapel by art historian Elizabeth Lev.