The Sistine Chapel

I do not believe there are existing words powerful enough to describe the Sistine Chapel or the experience of visiting the Sistine Chapel. However, I am a blogger, and therefore I must use words.

I thought about words that would be “good enough” to describe the Sistine Chapel for about an hour. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Serene
  • Tranquil
  • Surreal
  • Magical
  • Implausible
  • Unbelievable
  • Inconceivable
  • Brilliant
  • Grand
  • Gorgeous
  • Breath-taking
  • Stunning
  • Dreamy
  • Astonishing
  • Awe-inspiring
  • Moving
  • Overwhelming
  • Heart-stirring
  • Heart-stopping
  • Angelic
  • Fascinating

I’d always heard people say they cried when they visited the Sistine Chapel, and to be honest I thought that was a bit dramatic. I know now that I only thought it was dramatic then because what I pictured the chapel to be is so different than what the chapel actually is. It is so damned hard to imagine the Sistine Chapel in your head. There is truly no way to picture the detail and massiveness of Michelangelo’s paintings and the impressiveness of the entire chapel overall. To think an ordinary boy grew up into an incredible talented young man, to then become the PAINTER OF THE SISTINE CHAPEL is insane. When you admire the Sistine Chapel you question how Michelangelo’s hand could be so perfect, and so patient.

Low and behold, I entered the Sistine Chapel quietly and respectively, only to be floored by what I was seeing and began crying.

The guards urge everyone to not speak and to refrain from taking photographs. I was incredibly shocked and disgusted to see the majority of the crowd in the chapel shrieking, chatting, laughing, walking hastily, pushing and bumping into people, and taking photographs with flash. Every five seconds a flash seemed to go off and an Italian guard would do their best, in the kindest way, to explain that flash photographs (or photographs at all) were not allowed. Their pleas were ignored, and the flashes continued.

Here are some words I thought of to describe these tourists:

  • Rude
  • Disrespectful
  • Immature
  • Ignorant
  • Bad-mannered
  • Impolite
  • Insulting
  • Crude
  • Inconsiderate
  • Uneducated
  • Ungracious
  • Juvenile

This may be harsh of me, but these are the exact words I thought of that day. I’m not talking about the people that dealt with such great language barriers they truly could not understand the guards. I’m talking about the people that knew what the guards were conveying and thought it would be funny to disobey their wishes.

I was on a tour so I only had about 15 minutes in the chapel, which is pretty much nothing. I wished I’d had three hours to admire the artwork, to take notes, to be in touch with my thoughts and feelings. I lost precious time being distracted and upset by those who did not care about where they were.

I take it as a lesson learned. Not everyone has this type of experience at the chapel. Maybe I went on a super crowded day or something and people were out of hand. But in the end, I realized I can’t always expect people to react to art the same way I do. I can’t expect people to be thankful for the same things I am thankful for. I am my own person, with my own beliefs, my own dreams, my own standards. I have a love for art, one that I have spent the last few years of my life pursuing – not everyone has a passion for art. From this experience I learned to never be so distracted by a commotion that I miss out on the art that is in front of me. If I go somewhere for art, I should not miss out on that art for any reason.

When I dream about my visit to the Sistine Chapel, it goes like this:

  1. All tourists, tour guides, cameras, and guards disappear.
  2. I enter the empty chapel alone. I am on a solo tour. The chapel has been reserved for me.
  3. I move from bench to bench, studying each section of the painted walls on my own watch.
  4. I call it the best day of my life – the most profound work of art my eyes have been lucky enough to see.

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