The Sistine Chapel was specially made by Pope Sixtus IV, from whom it derives its name, in 1475. It was designed to be - and still is - the pope's chapel and the site of papal elections. TheSistine Chapel was consecrated and dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin on August 15, 1483.
In 1481 Sixtus IV called to Rome the Florentine painters Sandro Botticelli, Domenico Ghirlandaio andCosimo Rosselli and the Perugian Pietro Perugino to decorate the walls with frescoes. The fresco project took only 11 months, from July 1481 to May 1482.
The Sistine ceiling was originally paintedby Piero Matteo d'Amelia, who included a star-spangled sky. But in 1508 Pope Julius II della Rovere called Michelangelo to repaint the ceiling.
WHY THE SISTINE IS IMPOTANT.
The Sistine Chapel wasoriginally divided into two equal sections, a nave for the laity and a presbytery for the clergy, by a marble screen and the pattern of floor mosaics. In later years, the screen was moved to make thenave smaller and the presbytery much larger. The walls are decorated with frescoes by Renaissance masters and are divided into three horizontal levels.
The wall frescoes, though oftenmissed by visitors captivated by the ceiling, are stunning in their artistic beauty and fascinating in their meaning. The fresco cycle consists of scenes from the Old Testament on the left wall thatcorrespond with scenes from the New Testament on the right wall.
In two of the wall frescoes - Perugino's "Christ Gives the Keys to Peter" and Botticelli's "The Punishment of Korah," the Arch ofConstantine can be seen in the background. This also underlined papal authority, for Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, was traditionally held to have bestowed on the pope secularauthority over the western world. The inclusion of Constantine's triumphal arch thus alludes to Sixtus' view of himself as not only the successor of Peter, but the successor of the Roman emperors.