Easily the most famous and popular attraction in Vatican City is the Sistine Chapel, with its colorful ceiling frescoes and enormous altarpiece both painted by Michelangelo. Visitors unfamiliar with the position of the chapel – and, indeed, its modern uses – would be smart to take the following as a little crash course in the Sistine Chapel before heading to Rome.
The Sistine Chapel is part of the Vatican Museums.
If you want to see the Sistine Chapel, that means you’ll need to get a ticket for the Vatican Museums. During the high seasons, lines to get into the museums can be extremely long, so it’s highly recommended that you book tickets well in advance to reserve an entry time – or that you book a spot on a guided tour that includes a reserved entry.
The Sistine Chapel is at the very end of a Vatican Museums tour.
While your entire goal upon entering the Vatican Museums may be to see the Sistine Chapel, be aware that it’s the very last stop in the museum – indeed, once you go in, there’s only one exit door. Plan your time accordingly to check out some of the other world-famous art and artifacts in the museums.
The Sistine Chapel is still in use.
Most days, the Sistine Chapel is a tourist attraction – but make no mistake, this is still a chapel that’s very much in use and it can be closed with little or no notice. One use for the Sistine Chapel is the Papal “Conclave,” when the Cardinals meet after the death of a Pope to choose the next Pope.
Silence is required in the Sistine Chapel.
As it’s still a holy place, respect in the form of complete silence is required of visitors in the Sistine Chapel. There are guards stationed throughout the chapel to reinforce this rule, although it routinely gets broken as hushed murmurs increase steadily in volume until the guards issue another stern “SHHH!”
No photography is allowed in the Sistine Chapel.
Again, partly out of respect for the holiness of the setting, and partly because photography is believed to damage the artwork, photography and video aren’t allowed in the Sistine Chapel. It may seem like a game to try to get away with snapping a picture or two, but be respectful of the place – you’re just a visitor, after all. Buy a postcard instead. The photo will be a thousand times better than what you can get on your iPhone.
Appropriate dress is required to get into the Sistine Chapel.
Modest dress is required throughout the Vatican, including the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica. This means no exposed shoulders, knees, midriffs, or cleavage. You’ll be prevented from entering any of these buildings if you’re not dressed properly, no matter what the weather is like, so plan ahead.