Saturday was All Saints' Day, and Pope Julius II chose that day in 1512 to display
Michelangelo's paintings on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel for the first time.
It took Michelangelo four years to complete the paintings that
decorate the ceiling of the chapel. The paintings are of scenes from the Old
Testament, including the famous center section. "The Creation of Adam."
The chapel itself was built about 25 years earlier, and various Renaissance
painters were commissioned to paint frescos on the walls.
Michelangelo was 33 years old at the time, and he tried to point out to the pope that
he was a sculptor, and not
really a painter, but the pope wouldn't listen. Michelangelo used his skills as a sculptor
to make the
two-dimensional ceiling look like a series of three-dimensional scenes
— a technique that was relatively new at the time. It took him four years
to finish the job, between 1508 and 1512.
He worked from a scaffold 60 feet above the floor, and he covered about
10,000 square feet of surface. Every day, fresh plaster was laid over a part of the ceiling and Michelangelo had to finish painting before the plaster dried.
The German writer Wolfgang von Goethe wrote, "We cannot know what a
human being can achieve until we have seen [the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel]."