Pope: Sistine Chapel 'Speaks of God's Relationship with Humanity'

Celebrates 500th Anniversary of Historic Chapels Inauguration

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By Ann Schneible

VATICAN CITY, Nov. 2, 2012 (Zenit.org).- On Wednesday, Pope Benedict XVI celebrated the 500th Anniversary of the Sistine Chapel’s inauguration by Pope Julius II. The Holy Father said that Michaelangelo’s masterpiece “tells this story of light, of deliverance, of salvation; it speaks of God’s relationship with humanity.”

«Why should we recall such an historical, artistic event in a liturgical celebration?» the Holy Father posited. He explained: «The Sistine is, by its nature, the liturgical hall, it is the great Chapel of the Apostolic Vatican Palace. In addition, because the artistic works that decorate it, in particular the series of frescoes, find in the liturgy, so to speak, their vital environment, the context in which they express best all their beauty, all the richness and the gestation of their meaning. It is as if, during the liturgical action, this whole symphony of figures comes to life, certainly in a spiritual sense, but inseparably also aesthetic, because the perception of the artistic form is a typically human act and, as such, involves the senses and the spirit. In short, contemplated in prayer, the Sistine Chapel is even more beautiful, more authentic; it reveals itself in all its richness.»

Within the Sistine Chapel, Pope Benedict said, «everything lives; everything resonates, from contact with the Word of God»

The Pope explained that Michelangelo, who was «already famous for masterpieces of sculpture, undertook the enterprise of painting more than one thousand square meters of plaster, and we can imagine that the effect produced on those who saw it for the first time must have really been impressive.»

The Holy Father makes reference to 16th century art historian Giorgio Vasari who, in his description of the Sistine Chapel, wrote: «This work was and is truly the lamp of our art that gave so much benefit and light to the art of painting, which has been sufficient to illuminate the world.»

«However, it is not a question of light» Pope Benedict said, «that comes from the wise use of color rich in contrasts, or the movement that animates Michelangelo’s masterpiece, but of the idea that runs through the great ceiling: it is the light of God that illuminates these frescos and the whole Papal Chapel. That light that with its power conquers chaos and darkness to give life: in creation and in redemption. And the Sistine Chapel tells this story of light, of deliverance, of salvation; it speaks of God’s relationship with humanity.»

«To pray this evening in this Sistine Chapel,» the Holy Father concluded, «enveloped in the history of God’s journey with man, wonderfully represented in the frescos which are above us and surround us, is an invitation to praise, an invitation to raise to God the Creator, Redeemer and Judge of the living and of the dead, with all the Saints of Heaven, the words of the canticle of Revelation: ‘Amen, alleluia… Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great!… Alleluia… Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory.'» (Rev. 19:4a.5.7a).

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