A Different Sistine Chapel

Today I stopped by the Basilica of St. Mary Major while I was out running some errands. Armed with my cell phone (and its less-than-mediocre camera), I took some photos to share. A view as I approached:

Looks like a beautiful day, but there was low atmospheric pressure and about 300% humidity; it was not too pleasant to be “out and about”.

Inside I was surprised to find its great “Sistine Chapel” open – I don’t recall ever having seen it open on my prior visits. It is towards the back on the right side. A shot of the ceiling:

The glare from the windows threw a lot of things off in this photo. As you can see, the chapel is bigger than many churches.

The chapel takes its name from Pope Sixtus V (Sixtus in Italian = Sisto, whence “Sistine”). He did not live to see it built. But he wanted it to be the mausoleum for him and his successor (Pius V). The chapel was built during the years 1587-1589. Here is the tomb of Pope St. Pius V, at which I prayed for all of you:

He had a silver death mask.

He has a silver death mask.

This chapel is officially the Blessed Sacrament chapel of the Basilica (though I don’t think the Sacrament was actually reserved there when I was there today; it was hard to tell). So it has a monumental tabernacle in the center of it:

Sends a clear signal about the importance of the Most Blessed Sacrament, yes?

Sends a clear signal about the importance of the Most Blessed Sacrament, yes?

Finally, here is a shot of the chapel exterior, by which you can see how it was added on to the already-existing Basilica. In other words, it wasn’t merely an ancient chapel that they renovated/baroquified:

Again, bigger than a lot of regular churches.

Again, bigger than a lot of regular churches.

The “other” Sistine Chapel, which we all know so well (see my post about it here) – located across town in the Vatican – was named for a different Sixtus – Pope Sixtus IV.

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