The Sistine Chapel is the building in which a papal election takes place. Since popes are usually appointed for life, an election of the pope is not frequent. Thus, the Sistine Chapel is almost always available to visitors to the Vatican Museum. It is the highlight of the visit of the huge museum. Michelangelo’s paintings on the walls and ceiling of the chapel are among the most important works of art in the world.
Many signposts in the Vatican Museum lead visitors to the Sistine Chapel. It goes through many rooms in the exhibition and some stairs up and down. After a long walk you suddenly find a door on the right and behind it a beautiful hall with colourful pictures on the wall. The first impression is stunning. Only after a few seconds did we understand that we are now in the Sistine Chapel.
Search for a Seat
The Cappella Sistina (Italian name) is the most famous part of the Vatican Museums. There is always a lot going on. But we were lucky to get one of the few seats along the walls after a few minutes on a Monday morning in November. As the really big works of art are on the ceiling, you see much better when sitting.
Our tip: Buy tickets 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. Many museum visitors now have tickets with preferential admission. 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 very long queues. We even waited 2 hours in December.
What do you see?
The highlight is the ceiling with scenes from the Bible. Especially the nine pictures in the middle row are among the top 10 works of art in the world. For many experts, the fresco by Michelangelo is even the top work of art of all time alongside the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci. The famous ceiling painting by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel has a total size of gigantic 520 m². It shows only scenes from the First Book of Moses (Genesis).
The painting on the ceiling was made by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. The absolute highlight is the middle painting “The Creation of Adam”..
The picture shows Adam (left) stretching out his hand to touch God (right). The spark of life should jump over to Adam. It is probably the most famous fresco in the history of art. All pictures in this series by Michelangelo depict scenes from the Old Testament.
But other pictures on the walls are also regarded as outstanding works of art. Some, such as “The Last Judgement” behind the altar are also by Michelangelo, others by other artists. These include Botticelli, Perugino, Rosselli and Signorelli.
Great Video Youtube Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel
—>>>> Tickets for the Vatican Museum incl. Sistine Chapel are available here.
Our recommendation: Very good guided tour through the Vatican Museum
Most visitors buy a ticket to the Vatican Museum without a guided tour. That’s fine. Somewhat more expensive, but much more interesting, are of course guided tours with a good guide. These are available in huge numbers in many languages, of course some also in English. An excellent and very popular and good tour in English can be booked on the great website Getyourguide. This tour also includes St. Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel
Important Information Sistine Chapel
Size: The building is about 40 meters long and about 13 meters wide. It is therefore more of a medium-sized church than a chapel.
The Sistine Chapel is connected to the largest church in the world next to St. Peter’s Basilica and by a staircase called Scala Regina. However, visitors cannot enter this corridor.
Julius II was the great Pope, who commissioned Michelangelo to paint the pictures. He did not want to paint at first. He said that he was more of a sculptor. Due to the great importance of the commission, Michelangelo agreed.
The other outstanding work of art in the Vatican Museum, Raphael’s punches, was produced practically simultaneously. Michelangelo and Raphael (Raffaello) often worked on their masterpieces on the same day. Through the four rooms of the stanzas, you arrive at the big tour through the Vatican Museum shortly before the Sistine Chapel.
The Sistine Chapel is very well signposted in the Vatican Museum at the back. When visiting the museum shortly after its opening in the morning, we recommend to first go to the Sistine Chapel and see the things on the way there in a second tour. Then there is not much going on in the chapel and you have better chances to get a seat.
In the Sistine Chapel the election of the Pope (Conclave) takes place. All the cardinals of the world meet here and remain in the building until a new Pope is appointed. This can take several days, some centuries ago often weeks or even months. A papal election is rare, since the popes are usually elected for life. Exception was the last Pope Benedict XVI (14.), who renounced his office during his lifetime.
The name Sistine Chapel goes back to Pope Sixtus IV (in office from 1471 to 1484), who commissioned the building. It is part of the Apostolic Palace, which also includes the Pope’s apartments and offices. The modest current Pope Francis, however, lives in an apartment in the Vatican’s guest house.
Michelangelo was actually a sculptor. It is all the more astonishing how he was able to create such a magnificent fresco. He also made the most important sculpture of all time, David.
Combi Ticket: Vatican & Colosseum
Many visitors to Rome want to see the Colosseum and the Vatican, the two absolute highlights of the city of Rome. There is a practical combination ticket for this: ——>>>> CLICK HERE: More info and booking
Other pages in this guide about the Vatican Museum
Our tip: Buy tickets online without queuing.
In the Vatican Museum, you can theoretically buy an entrance ticket at the ticket office, but you usually have to queue for hours. Often the queue along the wall around the Vatican is several hundred metres long, not infrequently even a kilometre or more. Many museum visitors now have tickets with priority admission. These are available in advance on the internet. The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museum and can only be visited with a museum admission ticket.
Note: Sometimes tickets are slightly cheaper on this website.
A combination ticket for the Vatican with the museum and St. Peter’s Basilica is also very popular. St Peter’s Basilica is theoretically free, but there are very long queues here too. We even waited 2 hours in December.
The Sistine Chapel, one of the most famous and revered chapels in the world, lies within the walls of Vatican City. Commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV in the late 15th century, the chapel is renowned for its stunning artwork and architectural design, including the iconic ceiling painted by Michelangelo. The Sistine Chapel is considered one of the greatest masterpieces of Renaissance art and attracts millions of visitors every year.
Visitors to the Sistine Chapel are struck by the scale and detail of the work. The chapel’s 42-metre-long and 12-metre-high ceiling consists of nine central and twelve peripheral panels painted by Michelangelo between 1508 and 1512. The ceiling is a masterpiece of Renaissance art and shows Michelangelo’s mastery of anatomy, composition and narrative.
One of his most famous works on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is “The Creation of Adam”, which shows God touching Adam’s finger, symbolising the creation of life. The Last Judgement panel behind the altar is another iconic work of art, depicting a dramatic apocalyptic scene in which God judges the souls of men.
The Sistine Chapel is famous not only for its ceiling, but also for the stunning frescoes that adorn its walls. These frescoes, painted by various artists such as Botticelli, Perugino and Ghirlandaio, depict scenes from the lives of Moses and Christ. Visitors to the Sistine Chapel should note that the chapel is a sacred space used for religious services and official Vatican events. Therefore, there are strict rules to maintain a respectful atmosphere. Visitors must dress appropriately, speak softly and are not allowed to take photographs or use their phones in the chapel.
Overall, the Sistine Chapel is a must-see for anyone interested in art, history and religion. Its stunning artworks, rich cultural heritage and religious significance make it one of the most important and inspiring chapels in the world. Whether you are a seasoned art lover or a curious traveller, the Sistine Chapel is an unforgettable experience not to be missed.