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Sistine Chapel Event: Making a Better Tourism Attraction

Extraordinary exhibition of tapestries

Sistine Chapel Event: Making a Better Tourism Attraction

On the occasion of the celebrations of the fifth centenary of the death of Raffaello Sanzio (Urbino 1483-Rome 1520), the Vatican Museums have presented the Sistine Chapel with magnificently-adorned and precious tapestries from the Acts of the Apostles series on Raphael Cartoons “1520-2020: a fabulous celebration – 500 years – half a millennium,” which saw Raphael Sanzio da Urbino protagonist of beauty, harmony, taste, and creative inspiration for generations of painters, sculptors, decorators, architects, and artists. This Sistine Chapel event is ongoing through February 23, 2020.

“A universal artist, Raphael, provided supreme models to western figurative civilization of beauty,” says Barbara Jatta, Director of the Vatican Museums. After the presentation of the rebuilt Pala dei Decemviri by Pietro Perugino maestro by Raphael at the Vatican Museums, the Raphaelesque celebrations come alive with the re-enactment of the suggestive grandiose arrangement in the Sistine Chapel of the tapestries designed by Raphael that the artist he could never fully admire due to his premature death.

Pontiffs Sixtus IV (1471-1484) and Julius II (1503-1513) had it executed in the Cappella Magna of Palazzo respectively of the pictorial cycle of the walls and the Michelangelo vault. Pope Leo X (1513-1521) wanted to complete through art the religious message of one of the most sacred places in Christianity, and in 1515, commissioned Raphael to the prestigious task of making the preparatory cartoons for a series of tapestries intended to cover the lower area of the walls with fake curtains.

Between 1515 and 1516 Raphael conceived a large monumental cycle with the stories of lives of San Pietro and San Paolo, whose preparatory cartoons were sent to Brussels for construction of the tapestries at the famous workshop of the weaver Pieter van Aelst.

The ten tapestries arrived in the Vatican between 1519 and 1521. “A few months before the artist’s premature and sudden death – on December 26, 1519 – for the feast of Santo Stefano, the first 7 tapestries of the series were exposed in the presence of his distinguished client.

“The master of the Papal Chapel, Paris de Grassis, noted that he had never seen anything more beautiful in the world. The intention of the Pope’s Museums is to share – 500 years later – the same beauty in homage to the divine Raphael. To fully understand Raphael, one must come to the Vatican,” said the Director of the Vatican Museums.

The historical Sistine Chapel event re-enactment that occurred beginning February 17, 2020 offers for a whole week the exceptional opportunity to admire in the venue for which everyone was designed and wanted by Pope Leo X Raphael’s tapestries preserved in the Vatican collections and exhibited in turn in the Raphael Hall of the Vatican Pinacoteca. This is all in homage to the “divine” Raphael, and also as a suggestive memory of the ancient custom of adorning the greater Papal Chapel during solemn ceremonies of the distant past.

This exceptional re-enactment is the result of long years of demanding studies by international specialists, who compared the meager historical information concerning the rare ancient once solemn liturgical ceremonies for which the tapestries had been used within the reality of the walls of the Sistine Chapel.


Tested for a few hours in 1983 and 2010 according to interpretative variants, in the year 2020 – in honor of the great Raphael on the fifth centenary of his death – it was decided to propose in its entirety the complete series of all the tapestries in their original positioning compatibly with the transformations undergone over the centuries by the Sistine Chapel, starting with that of the altar wall for the realization of Michelangelo’s Last Judgment.

As a special tribute to Raphael by the Directorate of Museums and Cultural Heritage of the Governorate of Vatican City State, edited by Alessandra Rodolfo (Curator of the Departments Tapestries and Fabrics and Art of the XVII and XVII centuries of the Vatican Museums) with the precious collaboration of the Tapestry and Textile Restoration Laboratory of the Vatican Museums and thanks to the intense unparalleled effort by all the competent offices and services involved in the operation, re-enactment of the ancient setting is offered to the public for the entire week from at the Sistine Chapel event from February 17 to 23.

In this period, the opportunity to admire the extraordinary exhibition will be offered to visitors to the Vatican Museums during the usual museum opening hours and according to the usual visit modality.

Visiting hours from Monday, February 17, to Saturday, February 22, are 0900-1800 (last admission at 1600).

Visiting hours on Sunday, February 23 are 0900-1400 (last admission at 1230).

A free visit is included in the entrance ticket to the Vatican Museums.

Visits are free on the last Sunday of each month.

Sistine Chapel Event: Making a Better Tourism Attraction
Sistine Chapel Event: Making a Better Tourism Attraction
Sistine Chapel Event: Making a Better Tourism Attraction
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