The Sistine Chapel

31 Mar, 2022 700 Arts

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the astonishing work of Michelangelo (1477-1564) in this great chapel in the Vatican, firstly the ceiling with images from Genesis (of which the image above is a detail) and later The Last Judgement on the altar wall. For the Papacy, Michelangelo’s achievement was a bold affirmation of the spiritual and political status of the Vatican, of Rome and of the Catholic Church. For the artist himself, already famous as the sculptor of David in Florence, it was a test of his skill and stamina, and of the potential for art to amaze which he realised in his astonishing mastery of the human form.

Listen on BBC Sounds website


  • Catherine Fletcher 4 episodes
    Professor of History at Manchester Metropolitan University
  • Sarah Vowles No other episodes
    The Smirnov Family Curator of Italian and French Prints and Drawings at the British Museum
  • Matthias Wivel No other episodes
    The Aud Jebsen Curator of Sixteenth-Century Italian Paintings at the National Gallery

Reading list

  • Michelangelo Drawings: Closer to the Master
    Hugo Chapman (British Museum Press, 2006) Google Books →
  • Michelangelo: His Epic Life
    Martin Gayford (Fig Tree, 2017) Google Books →
  • Michelangelo: The Achievement of Fame
    Michael Hirst (Yale University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Michelangelo and the Pope's Ceiling
    Ross King (Chatto & Windus, 2002) Google Books →
  • Michelangelo: The Sistine Chapel Ceiling
    Charles Seymour Jr (ed.) (Thames & Hudson, 1972) Google Books →
  • Julius II: The Warrior Pope
    Christine Shaw (Wiley-Blackwell, 1993) Google Books →
  • Michelangelo: The Artist, the Man and his Times
    William E. Wallace (Cambridge University Press, 2011) Google Books →
  • Michelangelo: Six Lectures
    Johannes Wilde (Oxford University Press, 1978) Google Books →

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Auto-category: 709.2 (Renaissance art)

Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. In 1506, Pope Julius II gave Michelangelo the chance to create, arguably, the greatest work of art in his time or since, the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.