Michelangelo's final murals restored in Vatican City


After being hidden under scaffolding for five years, the Vatican has unveiled the restored Cappella Paolina, the Pauline Chapel.

Cappella Paolina (Restoration)
click to enlarge

While there, most visitors go to St. Peterís Basilica as well as Vatican City, which contain some of the finest art in the world. There one will find  the famous Sistine Chapel as well as other glorious places of worship. Another one of these is the Pauline Chapel.

After being hidden under scaffolding for five years, the Vatican has unveiled the restored Cappella Paolina, the Pauline Chapel. Named after Pope Paul III who commissioned it to be built in 1537, it is located in the Apostolic Palace in Rome. The marvelous structure contains the last murals that Michelangelo created.

One mural depicts the crucifixion of St. Peter. Tradition has it that he didnít feel worthy to be crucified in the same manner as Our Lord and requested that he be crucified upside down. The other mural is Michelangeloís portrayal of the conversion of St. Paul on the Road to Damascus, where he encountered the glorified Jesus who asked Paul why he was persecuting Him. Before his conversion, Paul was an ardent persecutor of those first Christians. After that encounter, he became the greatest missionary for the Christian faith.

According to Cindy Wooden with Catholic News Service, the chapel is primarily reserved for the popeís private worship. On Saturday, July 4, Pope Benedict will bless it before it is officially used. Those who are Patrons of the Arts of the Vatican Art Museums will be present for the dedication. Wooden writes that these patrons from various countries around the world funded the entire $4.6 million that it took to renovate the chapel. The renovation including cleaning the entire valuable artwork, removing unoriginal structures,as well as installing new LED lights.

Apparently, almost every pope throughout the centuries has made modifications to the chapel which complicated the restoration. Wooden writes:

"Restoration of the art was not the only concern of those who worked on the chapel over the past five years, said Arnold Nesselrath, the Vatican Museums official who oversaw the effort."

'The Pauline Chapel is still one of the three papal chapels in the Apostolic Palace and has a traditional liturgical function, so we had to return the space intact without making modifications for purely educational or documentary purpose,' he said. "

There were art historians, Michelangelo art specialists, and advisers that assisted throughout the entire project. They facilitated in determining correct cleaning of the murals, what was original to the chapel, and what previous modifications to remove.

Michaelangelo's Conversion of St. Paul fresco

Pope Benedict chose to restore the original marble altar with the exception that it wonít be against the wall as it was originally was. The Holy Father desires to be able to use censor with incense on all four sides of the altar. He also expressed a desire to have the option of facing the worshipers or facing the cross during mass.

The chapel is traditionally where popes have celebrated early morning mass as well as providing a place for Eucharistic adoration for those who work in the Apostolic Palace.

Although the art is magnificent, and the history behind it is fascinating, the restored Pauline Chapel will still serve its primary purpose as a place of worship and adoration of Jesus Christ, Our Lord. A breathtaking gift has been preserved and passed down through the ages. The stunning art of Michelangelo and the presence of Our Lord -- what a combination!



Pamela Luther. "Michelangelo's final murals restored in Vatican City." The Roman Catholic Examiner (June 30, 2009).

Reprinted with permission of the author, Pamela Luther.

Photo: L'Osservatore Romano: AP


Having journeyed into the Catholic Church in 2000, Pamela Luther has immersed herself in Catholic studies, apologetics, and parish life. Her passion is for God, the church, her husband and family. She has a master's degree in counseling. Formerly an English teacher, she is an admitted bibliophile. E-mail her at: catholicexaminer@att.net.

Copyright © 2009 Pamela Luther

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