11 Things About The Eiffel Tower You Probably Didn’t Know

11 Things About The Eiffel Tower You Probably Didn’t Know

The Eiffel Tower—or as the French call it, La Tour Eiffel—is one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks. The tower was designed as the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris and was meant to commemorate the centennial of the French Revolution and show off France’s modern mechanical prowess on a world stage.

1. There’s a secret apartment at the top

When Gustave Eiffel designed his namesake tower, he cleverly included a private apartment for himself where he hosted famous guests, like Thomas Edison. The apartment is now open for the public to tour.

2. The Eiffel Tower was supposed to be torn down 

As mentioned before, the Tower was built with the intent of showing off France’s industrial prowess during the World’s Fair, but the plan was to tear it down after 20 years. Eiffel had cleverly put a radio antenna and wireless telegraph transmitter in the Tower, and the government eventually decided it was too useful to demolish.

3. Hitler ordered the Eiffel Tower to be destroyed

When Germany occupied France during the second World War, Hitler ordered that the Eiffel Tower be torn down, but the order was never followed through. French resistance fighters got their revenge, though—they cut the Tower’s elevator cables so the Nazis were forced to climb the stairs to hoist their flag

4. There’s a post office in the Eiffel Tower

Tucked into the first floor of the Tower next to the gift shops, there is a tiny post office. Pick up une carte postale and a stamp and have it mailed from the Eiffel Tower’s post office and it will be delivered with the unique postmark.

5. The Eiffel Tower doubled as a scientific laboratory

Mr. Eiffel housed a meteorology lab on the Tower’s third floor where he performed studies in physics, aerodynamics, and built a wind tunnel. Eiffel opened the doors of the laboratory to other scientists to use for the experiments, too, and cosmic rays were discovered there.

6. The Eiffel Tower moves

The massive iron structure is wind resistant and will sway during a storm. If the weather is bad enough, it can even move. Wind isn’t the only thing that can make the enormous Tower move, though—the heat of the sun also affects the Tower, causing the iron to expand and contract up to 7 inches.

8. The Eiffel Tower is covered in names of scientists

French scientists and engineers working in the 19th century were not forgotten by history—not only did they lend their names to Parisian streets, but 72 of their names are also engraved on the Eiffel Tower. The engraved tributes were covered up, but thanks to a restoration effort, they are once again visible and eagle-eyed visitors can see names like Foucault, Dumas, and Perrier cut into the iron.

9. There’s a military bunker underneath the Eiffel Tower

Underneath the Tower’s south pillar sits a snug bit of history—a secret military bunker that may connect to the nearby Ecole Militaire via a long tunnel. The bunker has now been turned into a small museum and tour groups can explore the diminutive space.

10. It takes a lot of work to keep the Eiffel Tower looking good

Every seven years, around 60 tons of paint are applied to the tower. It not only keeps the so-called Iron Lady (La dame de fer) looking good, but it also helps keep the iron from rusting.

11. There’s a Champagne bar at the top

If you’re brave enough to reach the top of the Tower, reward yourself with a glass of champagne from the Champagne Bar built into the top floor. There’s nothing like a glass of bubbly with a spectacular view.

Astonishing Renaissance of Michelangelo’s David Sculpture

Astonishing Renaissance of Michelangelo’s David Sculpture

This astonishing Renaissance sculpture was created between 1501 and 1504. It is a 14.0 ft marble statue depicting the Biblical hero David, represented as a standing male nude. Originally commissioned by the Opera del Duomo for the Cathedral of Florence, it was meant to be one of a series of large statues to be positioned in the niches of the cathedral’s tribunes, way up at about 80m from the ground. The Vestry Board had established the religious subject for the statue, but nobody expected such a revolutionary interpretation of the biblical hero.

The account of the battle between David and Goliath is told in Book 1 Samuel. Saul and the Israelites are facing the Philistines near the Valley of Elah. Twice a day for 40 days, Goliath, the champion of the Philistines, comes out between the lines and challenges the Israelites to send out a champion of their own to decide the outcome in single combat. Only David, a young shepherd, accepts the challenge. Saul reluctantly agrees and offers his armor, which David declines since it is too large, taking only his sling and five stones from a brook. David and Goliath thus confront each other, Goliath with his armor and shield, David armed only with his rock, his sling, his faith in God and his courage. David hurls a stone from his sling with all his might and hits Goliath in the center of his forehead: Goliath falls on his face to the ground, and David then cuts off his head.

Traditionally, David had been portrayed after his victory, triumphant over the slain Goliath. Florentine artists like Verrocchio, Ghiberti and Donatello all depicted their own version of David standing over Goliath’s severed head. Michelangelo instead, for the first time ever, chooses to depict David before the battle. David is tense: Michelangelo catches him at the apex of his concentration. He stands relaxed, but alert, resting on a classical pose known as contrapposto. The figure stands with one leg holding its full weight and the other leg forward, causing the figure’s hips and shoulders to rest at opposing angles, giving a slight s-curve to the entire torso.

The slingshot he carries over his shoulder is almost invisible, emphasizing that David’s victory was one of cleverness, not sheer force. He transmits exceptional self-confidence and concentration, both values of the “thinking man”, considered perfection during the Renaissance.

It is known from archive documents that Michelangelo worked at the statue in utmost secrecy, hiding his masterpiece in the making up until January 1504. Since he worked in the open courtyard, when it rained he worked soaked. Maybe from this he got his inspiration for his method of work: it is said he created a wax model of his design, and submerged it in water. As he worked, he would let the level of the water drop, and using different chisels, sculpted what he could see emerging. He slept sporadically, and when he did he slept with his clothes and even in his boots still on, and rarely ate, as his biographer Ascanio Condivireports.

After more than two years of tough work, Michelangelo decided to present his “Giant” to the members of the Vestry Board and to Pier Soderini, the then gonfaloniere of the Republic. In January 1504, his 14 foot tall David was unveiled only to them: they all agreed that it was far too perfect to be placed up high in the Cathedral, thus it was decided to discuss another location in town. The city council convened a committee of about thirty members, including artistslike Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli and Giuliano da Sangallo, to decide on an appropriate site for David. During the long debate, nine different locations for the statue were discussed, and eventually the statue was placed in the political heart of Florence, in Piazza della Signoria.

Discover What Goes On Behind World’s Tallest Indoor Waterfall

Discover What Goes On Behind World’s Tallest Indoor Waterfall

Standing 40 metres tall with water cascading down from the dome-shaped roof of Jewel Changi Airport (Jewel), the HSBC Rain Vortex is the world’s tallest indoor waterfall. This architecture marvel has been a centre of attention for many since Jewel opened doors in April 2019. However, many do not know the science behind the rain vortex.

How does the HSBC Rain Vortex work?

To create that even circular flow of water down the Rain Vortex, there are structural features built into the exterior of the building. The “fins” outside the dome structure make up a network of pipes that channel water to the ring in the middle of the oculus. The oculus then distributes the water down the Rain Vortex and gives it an even complete circular effect.

The water stretches all the way from the roof, down to Basement 3 (B3), where the catchment area is. The water stored in B3 is then pumped back up around the perimeter of the building to the oculus, where the cycle repeats itself.

In accordance to the regulatory requirements, the Rain Vortex undergoes thorough cleaning periodically. During the cleaning, the Rain Vortex will be inoperable for up to a week. To ensure that the water meets the regulated quality limits and is safe to fall through the vortex, samples of the water are taken regularly to a lab for testing. 

Unbeknown to many, a pump room sits inconspicuously at the B3 car park of Jewel, where all the main pumps and controls for the Rain Vortex are located. Water is stored in the water tank behind the walls while the pipes and pumps are built around them. On rainy days, rainwater is also collected and stored at B3, before it is channeled back up to Level 5 into the oculus. When the tanks are full, excess water is used for irrigation or diverted to other uses.

The pumps are like the muscles of the Rain Vortex, while the electrical panels are its brains. All the lights, audio, animation and media for the Light & Sound show are master-controlled here. The 12 projectors hidden within the Shiseido Forest Valley that surrounds the Rain Vortex are also manually powered on in the pump room.

The show is pre-programmed on the panels and manually controlled by an iPad via a dedicated wireless network at the Rain Vortex itself. 

Are there other interesting features of the Rain Vortex?

The black ring of water surrounding the Rain Vortex is the Reflective Pool, making it a perfect subject for an Instagram photo. Coins can sometimes be found in the pool as coin-tossing is thought to bring good luck. To discourage this behaviour, the team at Jewel cleans the Reflective Pool often to rid it of dirt as well as coins. 

The water that flows into the Reflective Pool continues downwards on to B1 and B2, forming the Water Skin acrylic column feature you see stretching across the two floors – another favourite social media spot for many.

Discover 10 Interesting Facts About Mount Fuji

Discover 10 Interesting Facts About Mount Fuji

Mount Fuji is perhaps Japan’s biggest attraction, being the country’s highest peak at an impressive 3,776 metres. The official climbing season for Mount Fuji is from early July until early-September when the trails are free of snow and the weather is mild, so it is the perfect time to visit if you are eager to take on a rewarding and memorable challenge this summer.

1. It is three volcanoes in one

It might look like it’s just one giant mountain, but Mount Fuji is actually made up of three separate volcanoes: Komitake at the bottom, Kofuji in the middle and Fuji at the top, which is the youngest of the three.

2. Women were forbidden to climb it until 1868

As the mountain has sacred importance and climbing it has long been a religious practice, it was formally forbidden territory for women until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. The first western woman to reach the summit was Lady Fanny Parkes in 1869.

3. It is a sacred mountain

Mount Fuji has been a sacred site for followers of the Shinto religion since the 7th century, with Shintoists considering the peak sacred to the goddess Sengen-Sama, and many shrines can be found at the base and ascent. It is one of Japan’s three holy mountains, along with Mount Tate and Mount Haku.

4. It was first climbed by a monk

The first person to ascend Mount Fuji is believed to have been a monk in the year 663AD, although his name is unknown. Following this, the peak was climbed regularly by men with Sir Rutherford Alcok being the first known Westerner to reach the summit in 1860.

5. It is a symbol of Japan

Mount Fuji has long been one of Japan’s famous iconic symbols, contributing to the country’s cultural and spiritual geography. Over the years the peak has evolved from an object of worship to a source of artistic inspiration, having featured in poetry, literature and countless art prints.

6. It is an active volcano

While it may be a site of serene and sacred beauty, Mount Fuji is actually an active volcano which sits on a triple junction of tectonic activity, where the Amurian, Okhotsk and Philippine plates meet.

7. It last erupted in 1707

Despite being an active volcano, Mount Fuji hasn’t erupted since 1707, when it erupted for two weeks. This caused ash to fall on its neighbouring cities in Tokyo and formed a new crater and peak on its south-eastern side.

8. It is surrounded by five beautiful lakes

The base of Mount Fuji is surrounded by five stunning lakes which sit around 1,000 feet above sea level and offer spectacular views of the mountain. The lakes area has become a popular spot among tourists thanks to their unrivalled setting. Due to the geothermal activity in the area, there are hot springs to bathe in – perfect for easing those aches and pains after a long day’s climbing.

9. There are four trails to the top

It takes an average of around six hours to reach the summit of the mountain and there are four different trails which you can take to get you there. Ten rest stations await along each route, offering food, drink, and rest spots, and if you are a novice climber, it’s recommended you take the popular Yoshidaguchi Trail to the mountain top.

10. It is the most climbed mountain in the world

Being Japan’s most popular attraction, the mountain is visited by around 300,000 climbers every year and considering it can only be accessed for just over two months of the year, that’s a pretty impressive number.

6 Things About Satorini You Probably Didn’t Know

6 Things About Satorini You Probably Didn’t Know

When you hear the name Santorini, what comes to mind is a beautiful island dotted with crisp white and blue buildings. This is the most famous island in Greece and it captures the heart of anyone that visits. The island is also known as Thera in Greek. It is located in the southern Aegean Sea. It has magnificent sunset and beautiful cobbled streets topped with unique gastronomy. The most popular neighbourhoods on the island are Fira and Oia. There is more about these places on the blog, the best areas to stay in Santorini.

1. Santorini is an active volcano

Scientists have found evidence of at least twelve large eruptions in the last 2000 centuries. The most recent eruption was in 1956 with tremors experienced between 2011 and 2012. The blessing in disguise is that previous volcanic eruptions left Santorini with the most beautiful beaches. There are volcanic red beaches, black sand beaches as well as white rock formations.

2. Santorini has one source of freshwater

The island has a small spring located in a cave behind a small chapel. This spring only provides a small quantity of water. The water, which comes from the only remaining limestone outcrop, is of good. The hotels and homes on the island get their water from a local desalination plant.

3. It’s one of the great wonders of the world

Santorini is one of the great natural wonders of the world. Its main attraction is the rolling landscape and seascape. All these were caused by a volcanic explosion in 1630 BCE. The top of the island was blown off, in the process forming a caldera. Sunsets at Santorini are nothing short of magical. The skies turn to beautiful pink and purple. Most of the hotels offer some of the best views of the sunset over the sea.    

4. Fortifications from the 15th and 16th centuries

During the 15th and 16th centuries, the Cyclades were under threat from pirates. The pirates plundered their harvests, enslaved men and women and sold them in the slave markets. The Cyclades would hide in the small bays on the island. They also built their homes at the highest points that were inaccessible. They had a wall around their homes that formed a protective perimeter around the village. These types of fortification were found all over the island. It protected the islanders. There were small coastal watchtowers, from where a watch was kept and an alarm raised when a pirate ship was sighted.

5. Santorini may be Atlantis

Santorini is made up of a series of islands in the Aegean Sea but only the caldera has a human settlement in the entire world. The island is on an underwater volcano. For this reason, many believe that the island was referenced as Atlantis by Plato. Plato referred to the disappearance of around island. Santorini has a circular outline with a domed island at the centre. According to Plato, this happened during the Minoan Eruption. A devastating tsunami roughed up the Aegean Sea destroying the Minoan civilization on the island of Crete. Luckily, about 30,000 residents evacuated the island before the tsunami struck.

6. Santorini has the best wine

There are more than 18 wineries in Santorini. It is definitely the best place to go for wine tasting. The island has been in the winemaking business for more than 30 centuries. There are over 80 varieties of grapes grown on the island too. Santorini is a windy place; this has made the farmers adopt farming methods that would spare their grapes. The grapes are grown on the ground in bunches rather than on vines. They are also grown with no irrigation; they get all the water from the moisture in the humid air. The volcanic soil and the special climate contribute to the unique character of the island’s wines.

Discover 7 Best-Kept Secrets of Machu Picchu

Discover 7 Best Kept Secrets of Machu Picchu

Nestled high in the slopes of the Andes, the ruins of Machu Picchu continue to reveal the mysteries of the Inca Empire. While the archaeological site draws scores of visitors to Peru annually, here are 10 lesser known secrets hidden beneath its layers of history. 

1. It isn’t actually the Lost City of Inca 

When the explorer Hiram Bingham III encountered Machu Picchu in 1911, he was looking for a different city, known as Vilcabamba. This was a hidden capital to which the Inca had escaped after the Spanish conquistadors arrived in 1532. Over time it became famous as the legendary Lost City of the Inca. Bingham spent most of his life arguing that Machu Picchu and Vilcabamba were one and the same, a theory that wasn’t proved wrong until after his death in 1956. (The real Vilcabamba is now believed to have been built in the jungle about 50 miles west of Machu Picchu.) Recent research has cast doubt on whether Machu Picchu had ever been forgotten at all. When Bingham arrived, three families of farmers were living at the site.

2. It’s not stranger to earthquakes

The stones in the most handsome buildings throughout the Inca Empire used no mortar. These stones were cut so precisely, and wedged so closely together, that a credit card cannot be inserted between them. Aside from the obvious aesthetic benefits of this building style, there are engineering advantages. Peru is a seismically unstable country—both Lima and Cusco have been leveled by earthquakes and Machu Picchu itself was constructed atop two fault lines. When an earthquake occurs, the stones in an Inca building are said to “dance;” that is, they bounce through the tremors and then fall back into place. Without this building method, many of the best known buildings at Machu Picchu would have collapsed long ago.

3. Much of the most impressive stuff is invisible

While the Inca are best remembered for their beautiful walls, their civil engineering projects were incredibly advanced as well. The site we see today had to be sculpted out of a notch between two small peaks by moving stone and earth to create a relatively flat space. The engineer Kenneth Wright has estimated that 60 percent of the construction done at Machu Picchu was underground. Much of that consists of deep building foundations and crushed rock used as drainage.

4. You can walk up to the ruins

A trip to Machu Picchu is many things, but cheap is not one of them. Train tickets from Cusco can run more than a hundred dollars each, and entry fees range from $47 to $62 depending on which options you choose. In between, a round-trip bus trip up and down the 2,000-feet-high slope atop which the Inca ruins are located costs another $24. If you don’t mind a workout, however, you can walk up and down for free. The steep path roughly follows Hiram Bingham’s 1911 route and offers extraordinary views of the Machu Picchu Historical Sanctuary, which looks almost as it did in Bingham’s time. The climb is strenuous and takes about 90 minutes.

5. There’s a great hidden museum of the beaten path

The excellent Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón fills in many of the blanks about how and why Machu Picchu was built, and why the Inca chose such an extraordinary natural location for the citadel. First you have to find the museum, though. It’s inconveniently tucked at the end of a long dirt road near the base of Machu Picchu, about a 30-minute walk from the town of Aguas Calientes.

6. There’s a secret temple

Should you be one of the lucky early birds who snags a spot on the guest list to Huayna Picchu, don’t just climb the mountain, snap a few photos, and leave. Take the time to follow the hair-raising trail to the Temple of the Moon, located on the far side of Huayna Picchu. Here, a ceremonial shrine of sorts has been built into a cave lined with exquisite stonework and niches that were once probably used to hold mummies.

7. It may have been the end of a pilgrimage

A new theory proposed by the Italian archaeoastronomer Giulio Magli suggests that the journey to Machu Picchu from Cusco could have served a ceremonial purpose: echoing the celestial journey that, according to legend, the first Inca took when they departed the Island of the Sun in Lake Titicaca. Rather than simply following a more sensible path along the banks of the Urubamba River, the Inca built the impractical but visually stunning Inca Trail, which according to Magli, prepared pilgrims for entry into Machu Picchu. The final leg of the pilgrimage would have concluded with climbing the steps to the Intihuatana Stone, the highest spot in the main ruins.

8 Things About The Merlion You Probably Didn’t Know

8 Things About The Merlion You Probably Didn’t Know

1. It represents a mythical creature with a deeper meaning

The Merlion is a mythical creature that serves as the national symbol of Singapore. It has the head of a lion and the body of a fish and statues of it can be found in several locations in the city. The name “Merlion” is a combination of “mer,” which means “sea,” and “lion,” referring to the the mighty big cat. This again is a reference to the origin of Singapore as a fishing village. Back in the day, it was called “Temasek,” which means “Sea Town” in Javanese. The original name of the city was “Singapura,” which means “Lion City.”

2. It’s the ultimate patriotic emblem of Singapore

One of the most remarkable facts about the Merlion is that it didn’t start out as the ultimate patriotic symbol of Singapore. It was originally designed to serve as the logo of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) and was used as such between 1964 and 1997. It was designed in the 1960s by Alec Fraser-Brunner, a British ichthyologist who served as a member of the Souvenir Committee and who worked at the former “Van Kleef Aquarium.” 

3. You can’t just use the Merlion symbol anywhere

Even though the Merlion seized to be used as the logo of the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), it was trademarked in 1966 and is still protected. This means that you can’t just go ahead and create souvenirs with a picture of a Merlion and sell them!

4. The original statue was located somewhere else

The most famous Merlion statue in Singapore, the one located in “Merlion Park,” was originally located at the mouth of the Singapore River in an area now referred to as “Waterboat House Garden.” It was created between November 1971 and August 1972 and has a height of 8.6 meters and weighs 70 tonnes (70,000 kilos).

5. It was relocated in 2002 on a piece of reclaimed land

The statue remained in this location until the early 2000s. It was relocated because the Esplanade Bridge that spans the Singapore River blocked its view and because this area wasn’t the entrance of the Singapore River anymore. That’s why the Singaporean government started looking for a location better suited to house the ultimate symbol of the city, which they found just 120 meters further in a little piece of reclaimed land that is now referred to as Merlion Park. This little area of reclaimed land fronts Marina Bay and the statue stands proudly in front of the iconic Fullerton Hotel.

6. The Prime Minister from 1972 welcomed the statue yet again

One of the most interesting facts about the Merlion is that the Prime Minister who inaugurated the statue in 1972, a man named Lee Kuan Yew (1923-2015), was called for duty again to inaugurate the same statue on its new location in 2002!

7. They didn’t take any risk with the water pump of the statue

Did you know that the Merlion statue stopped shooting water out of its mouth in 1998 when it was still located in its old location? That’s because the water pump that made this happen broke down! They did whatever they could to avoid this, so the Singaporean Government didn’t just spend S$7.5 million to install a world-class water pump system, but also a backup unit nearby! This means that there is no reason for the statue to stop shooting water into Marina Bay!

8. Merlion Park is one of the most picturesque locations in Singapore

If you ever visit Singapore, then Merlion Park should be on the top of your bucket list! Even though the statue looks quite amazing itself, the location it’s positioned in is pretty incredible. Especially at night, this becomes one of the most picturesque locations in a city full of marvelous spots already!

Beauty abounds in the Gardens by The Bay

Beauty Abounds in the Gardens by The Bay 

A national garden and premier horticultural attraction for local and international visitors, Gardens by the Bay is a showpiece of horticulture and garden artistry that presents the plant kingdom in a whole new way, entertaining while educating visitors with plants seldom seen in this part of the world, ranging from species in cool, temperate climates to tropical forests and habitats.

Cloud Forest

Home to one of the world’s tallest indoor waterfalls and a lush mountain clad with plants from around the world, Cloud Forest rewards the curious and adventurous. Go on a fascinating journey of discovery and get up close with some of the world’s most exotic plant species as you stroll along its unique aerial walkways. Make your way to the mountain’s peak. Take a closer look at unusual vegetation native to cloud forest habitats, typically found at some 2,000 metres above sea level. Look out for carnivorous plants such as pitcher plants and Venus Flytraps set against a verdant carpet of delicate ferns and mosses — all while enjoying spectacular views of the Marina Bay waterfront.

Flower Dome

Be awed by the Flower Dome’s beauty and its sheer size — this cavernous cooled conservatory holds the Guinness World Record for the largest glass greenhouse! Come explore and learn more about this innovative megastructure that literally brings the world’s flora under one roof. The Flower Dome’s volume is equivalent to 75 Olympic-sized swimming pools. Temperature in the Flower Dome ranges from 23°C to 25°C. The Flower Dome is covered with 3,332 glass panels. The Flower Field Hall accommodates up to 1,000 people.

Supertree Observation

The tallest Supertree is about the height of a 16-storey building. The Supertrees are sustainable vertical gardens housing over 162,900 plants of over 200 species. The nightly Garden Rhapsody shows are powered by 68 independent audio speakers. 7 of the Supertrees are designed to harvest solar energy. Keep your eyes peeled and ears tuned in for a stupendous “live performance” by the Supertrees! Be dazzled as these titanic beacons light up in perfect synchrony with curated soundtracks choreographed specially for the Gardens. Catch the free Garden Rhapsody shows at the Supertree Grove, happening at 7.45pm and 8.45pm nightly!

Kingfisher Wetlands

For bird watchers and nature lovers, the Kingfisher Wetlands never disappoints. The latest attraction at the Gardens, this new freshwater sanctuary opens your eyes to a flourishing diversity of exotic flora and fauna. Rarely do you get wetlands like this in the city centre, so seize this opportunity to get up close with Nature. After a fulfilling meal at Satay by the Bay, take an easy stroll to the Wetlands near by. Savour all that nature has to offer, and discover the secrets to biodiversity—thriving right in the heart of our urban world.

Michelangelo’s Painting of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

Michelangelo’s Painting of the Sistine Chapel Ceiling

The Sistine Chapel is one of the most famous painted interior spaces in the world, and virtually all of this fame comes from the breathtaking painting of its ceiling from about 1508-1512.  The chapel was built in 1479 under the direction of Pope Sixtus IV, who gave it his name (“Sistine” derives from “Sixtus”).  The location of the building is very close to St. Peter’s Basilica and the Belvedere Courtyard in the Vatican.  One of the functions of the space was to serve as the gathering place for cardinals of the Catholic Church to gather in order to elect a new pope.  Even today, it is used for this purpose, including in the recent election of Pope Francis in March 2013.

Originally, the Sistine Chapel’s vaulted ceiling was painted blue and covered with golden stars.  The walls were adorned with frescoes by different artists, such as Pietro Perugino, who painted Christ delivering the keys to St. Peter there in 1482.

In 1508, Pope Julius II (reigned 1503-1513) hired Michelangelo to paint the ceiling of the chapel, rather than leaving it appear as it had.  Before this time, Michelangelo had gained fame through his work as a sculptor, working on such great works as the Pieta and David.  He was not, however, highly esteemed for his work with the brush.  According to Vasari, the reason why Julius gave such a lofty task to Michelangelo was because of the instigation of two artistic rivals of his, the painter Raphael and the architect Bramante.  Vasari says that the two hoped that Michelangelo would fall flat, since he was less accustomed to painting than he was to sculpting, or alternatively he would grow so aggravated with the Julius that he would want to depart from Rome altogether.

Rather than falling on his face, however, Michelangelo rose to the task to create one of the masterpieces of Western art.  The ceiling program, which was probably formulated with the help of a theologian from the Vatican, is centered around several scenes from the Old Testament beginning with the Creation of the World and ending at the story of Noah and the Flood.  The paintings are oriented so that to view them right-side-up, the viewer must be facing the altar on the far side of the altar wall.  The sequence begins with Creation, above the altar, and progresses toward the entrance-side of the chapel on the other side of the room.

Michelangelo began painting in 1508 and he continued until 1512.  He started out by painting the Noah fresco (entrance side of chapel), but once he completed this scene he removed the scaffolding and took in what he had completed.  Realizing that the figures were too small to serve their purpose on the ceiling, he decided to adopt larger figures in his subsequent frescoed scenes.  Thus, as the paintings moved toward the altar side of the chapel, the figures are larger as well as more expressive of movement.  Two of the most important scenes on the ceiling are his frescoes of the Creation of Adam and the Fall of Adam and Eve/Expulsion from the Garden.

In order to frame the central Old Testament scenes, Michelangelo painted a fictive architectural molding and supporting statues down the length of the chapel.  These were painted in grisaille(greyish/monochromatic coloring), which gave them the appearance of concrete fixtures.

Beneath the fictive architecture are more key sets of figures painted as part of the ceiling program.  These figures are located in the triangles above the arched windows, the the larger seated figures between the triangles.  The first group include Old Testament people such as David, Josiah, and Jesse – all of whom were believed to be part of Christ’s human ancestry.  They complemented the portraits of the popes that were painted further down on the walls, since the popes served as the Vicar of Christ.  Thus, connections to Christ – both before and after – are embodied in these paintings which begin on the ceiling and continue to the walls.

The figures between the triangles include two different types of figures – Old Testament prophets and pagan sibyls.  Humanists of the Renaissance would have been familiar with the role of sibyls in the ancient world, who foretold the coming of a savior.  For Christians of the sixteenth century, this pagan prophesy was interpreted as being fulfilled in the arrival of Christ on earth.  Both prophets from the Old Testament and classical culture therefore prophesied the same coming Messiah and are depicted here.  One of these sibyls, the Libyan Sibyl, is particularly notable for her sculpturesque form.  She sits on a garment placed atop a seat and twists her body to close the book.  Her weight is placed on her toes and she looks over her shoulder to below her, toward the direction of the altar in the chapel.  Michelangelo has made the sibyl respond to the environment in which she was placed.

It has been said that when Michelangelo painted, he was essentially painting sculpture on his surfaces.  This is clearly the case in the Sistine Chapel ceiling, where he painted monumental figures that embody both strength and beauty.