Do you know your Sistine Chapel facts? This week, the eyes of the world are on the famous cathedral, as 115 Catholic cardinals convene there for their papal conclave, a sacred ritual whereby they’ll select a successor for Pope Benedict XVI, who stepped down in February 2013.
Make sure to read: All Things Papal Conclave 2013
The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous buildings in the world, but there are many facts you might not know about the vaulted house of worship. Below are 10 facts about the Sistine Chapel—bits of information that may come in handy long after a new pope has been named.
1. The Sistine Chapel was begun in 1473, completed in 1481 and consecrated on Aug. 15, 1483.
2. The church is not located in Rome, as many believe, but rather Vatican City, the world’s smallest sovereign state, both in terms of size and population.
3. The Sistine Chapel is named for Pope Sixtus IV, who commissioned its construction.
4. It was designed by architect Giovanni dei Dolci.
5. The dimensions of the chapel’s main area—134×44 ft.—are based on Solomon’s Temple in Jerusalem.
6. Revered Renaissance artist Michelangelo Buonarroti painted the Sistine Chapel’s famous ceiling—a series of images known as the “Genesis fresco”—between 1508 and 1512. Considered one of history’s greatest pieces of art, it covers some 12,000 square feet.
7. During a papal conclave—the process by which a new pope is chosen—smoke can be seen rising from the Sistine chapel. Black smoke means no pope has been selected, while white signals that the cardinals have made their choice.
8. The Sistine Chapel hosted its first conclave in 1484, when it came time to pick a successor to Pop Sixtus IV.
9. The chapel was the subject of a major restoration project between 1980 and 1994, and when it was finished, some critics felt the stripping away of dirt and soot left the frescoes too bright.
10. During the conclave, the chapel is filled with cardinals, but once they leave, tourists will be free to visit once again—and visit they shall. Some 5 million people flock to the Sistine Chapel each year.
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