“The Last Judgement” is a monumental fresco painted by Michelangelo on the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City. It was commissioned by Pope Paul III and unveiled in 1541 and remains one of Michelangelo’s most famous works to this day.
Important tip: Buy tickets for the Vatican Museum,without queuing on the Internet
In the Vatican Museum, you can theoretically buy an entrance ticket at the box office, but you usually have to queue for hours. Often, the queue along the wall around the Vatican is several hundred metres long, often even one kilometre and more. A lot of museum visitors meanwhile have tickets with preferential admission (without queuing). These are available in advance on the Internet.
Note: Sometimes tickets are slightly cheaper on this website.
A combination ticket for the Vatican with a museum and St. Peter’s Cathedral is also very popular. St. Peter’s Basilica is theoretically free, but there are also very long queues. We even waited 2 hours in December.
After the ceiling fresco “The Creation of Adam” (see our article), the “Last Judgement” is the second most important work of art in the Sistine Chapel (see our article) and in the entire Vatican Museums (see our article).
Subject of the painting:
The frescoes depict the second coming of Christ and the Last Judgement on humanity. Christ in the centre is surrounded by angels, saints and the Virgin Mary, and to his left and right are figures of the damned and the saved respectively.
All our articles on the Vatican Museums:
Vatican Museums Overview
Pinacoteca of the Vatican
The Sistine Chapel
The Creation of Adam fresco
The Last Judgement
Rooms of Raphael
Pio Clementino Museum
The Torso from the Belvedere
The Gallery of Maps
The Carriage Museum of the Vatican
Michelangelo’s excessive nudity caused controversy, and changes were later made to cover up some of the exposed figures. During the Renaissance, emotional intensity and dynamic composition increased controversy.
Each figure in the fresco has a symbolic meaning and represents different aspects of the judgment. The righteous are ascended into heaven and the damned are thrown into hell, creating a visually powerful and symbolic composition.
Michelangelo included a self-portrait in a flayed skin held by Saint Bartholomew, giving the artwork a personal touch and reflecting the artist’s inner struggle.
Changes to the fresco over the centuries:
Over the centuries, demands for censorship led to revisions. In the mid-16th century, parts of nudity were covered by draping. Controversial restoration work in the late 20th century aimed to regain the original bright colors but was met with criticism over the extent of the changes.
Experiencing “The Last Judgment” as a visitor offers fascinating insights into Michelangelo’s genius, the historical controversy surrounding the work, and the complex symbolism inherent in the work’s composition.Michelangelo’s “
The Last Judgment remains a powerful masterpiece that continues to draw visitors to the Sistine Chapel with its profound and visually stunning depiction of a pivotal moment in Christian theology.
Youtube video about the fresco
List of important people in the painting “The Last Judgment” by Michelangelo
Christ (Jesus): As the central figure and judge, Christ is the dominant presence in the fresco.
The Virgin Mary: Often in close proximity to Christ, she represents a symbolic figure of grace.
John the Baptist: A central figure depicted naked and carrying a cross.
Apostles: The twelve apostles of Jesus, often grouped around Christ.
Adam and Eve: As representatives of humanity, they are often shown near Christ.
Moses: A major figure in the Old Testament who holds the tablets of the law.
Paul of Tarsus: An Important Apostle of the New Testament.
Peter: An apostle and one of the founders of the Christian church.
Andrew: Another of the twelve apostles.
Angels: Celestial beings who often appear as messengers and companions.
Blessed: People who are considered particularly holy in the Christian faith.
Damned: People who, according to Christian belief, were condemned to hell.
Charon: The ferryman who transports souls across the River Styx.
Minos: A judge in the underworld who decides the fates of the damned.
Saints and Martyrs: Various Saints and Martyrs of Christianity.
Souls in the afterlife: people awaiting judgment.
Choirs of Angels: Heavenly beings praising God.
King David: An important biblical king and psalmist.
Noah: The biblical patriarch who built the ark.
Judges of the Underworld: Beings who decide the fate of the damned.
This list is by no means complete.