Many people see the Sistine Chapel as part of the Vatican Museum tour: after spending a couple of hours browsing some of the world’s finest artistic treasures, you then find yourself in this exceedingly beautiful chapel – along with (seemingly) about 10,000 of your fellow tourists who – crowded in shoulder-to-shoulder – talk, gawk, and take illegal photos, while guards occasionally yell “SILENCE” and “NO PHOTO”. It’s not the experience of the Sistine Chapel that one would like to have.
This evening (well, now it’s yesterday evening) I had a chance to pray Vespers there, along with two friends and a bunch of other folks – we were probably about 100 total. The Papal Master of Ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, was the celebrant and preacher. Several of the Sistine’s famous musicians sang with organ accompaniment.
(I hinted at this event earlier when I posted the Miserere of Allegri. Allegri, a priest, also had a position as a singer in the Sistine Chapel Choir, and he composed the Miserere to be sung there.)
Here follow, then, several photos from the occasion. It was wonderful to pray in this chapel where popes are elected, and also to have the opportunity to snap some photos in relative peace before and afterwards (something that is usually not allowed), there having been only a small fraction of the usual crowds one sees in there.
My ticket to get into the celebration:
The worship aid that they had prepared; most of Vespers was in Italian, but the opening verse, the Magnificat, and the Our Father were sung in Latin:
Everyone is ready for the liturgy to begin:
The chapel’s beautiful cosmatesque floor. It still floors me (ha!) that they let millions of tourists walk over this each year:
Remember always to look up in Italian churches. You may recognize this rather famous image:
Vespers having concluded, I took some additional shots around the chapel. Here is a taller shot, capturing some more of the ceiling:
Here is a view looking towards the chapel entrance, from up around where the Pope is enthroned when he celebrates in here:
Turning around from where I was standing for that last shot, I got this closer look at the door that goes into the famous Room of Tears, where the newly-elected Pope goes to bewail his fate and compose himself before he goes out to the loggia of St. Peter’s to greet and bless the crowds:
A closer shot of the chapel’s beautiful altar. Recall that Pope Francis celebrated a Mass there earlier this year, as Pope Benedict and previous popes traditionally did as well:
A closeup of the mural depicting the Baptism of Christ. I believe these murals, about midway up the walls going around the chapel, were painted by several different artists (i.e. not by Michelangelo):
Here we have a mural of the Resurrection, which is in the back of the chapel, to the left above the entrance:
Here is a rather famous scene, the artist Perugino’s “Delivery of the Keys” (painted 1481-1482), showing Christ conferring the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven upon St. Peter:
Finally, a shot that proves that I was there:
Some people may be wondering: where is the woodstove? Where is the smokestack? – referring, of course, to the famous place where the ballots for the papal election are burned, producing either black or white smoke. The answer is: it is in storage, and is only brought in and installed when there is a conclave.
I hope you enjoyed this little photo tour and, notwithstanding the less prayerful experience that one has when seeing the chapel in person via the Vatican Museums, I hope that those who have not already been to see it will have the opportunity to do so some day!