We the Italians March 21, 2016 - 77 - Page 31

st # 77 MARCH 21 , 2016 the vaulted ceiling. In 1503, Pope Julius II (1503-1513) – nephew of Sixtus IV – wanted to renew the decoration of the chapel, aiming at rendering it a universal symbol of Christendom and at making the Vatican eternally relevant again, through beauty and grandeur. Julius II – also known as “the terrible pope” – saw the chapel as a medium to teach the Bible to the analphabet faithful (the so called “Biblia Pauperum” – Bible for the poor), a powerful means of propaganda, which worked effectively with Roman emperors. He sou- ght to bring Rome back to its ancient splendor and grandeur, surpassing the work of the previous popes. To fulfill the task, Julius II could not but choose Italy’s most renowned and talented artist of the time: Michelangelo Buonarroti, appointing him to paint the whole surface of the Sistine Chapel ceiling. A sculptor rather than a painter, Michelangelo had just been committed another grandiose project by Julius II himself: the construction of the pope's majestic tomb. The artist had thus to abandon such project, and was then brought to Rome for this new commission, which did not make him very happy. However, Michelangelo, who had no choice but to accept the commission, took it as a challenge. The initial project was not the beautiful spectacle we confront with while entering the Chapel. Julius II wanted twelve Apostles and geometrical motifs to be painted. Michelangelo convinced him to change his mind, proposing a more grandiose and complex project: a theatrical corpus of stories from the Old Testament. He ended Michelangelo Buonarroti, detail from the Sistine Chapel vaulted ceiling showing the Creation of Adam, 1508-1512 WE THE ITALIANS | 31 www.wetheitalians.com