1. The Sistine Chapel – Cappella Sistina in Italian – takes its name from the man who commissioned it, Pope Sixtus IV: ‘Sixtus’ in Italian is ‘Sisto’.
2. Some 25, 000 people a day, or five million people a year, visit the chapel.
3. Entry to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel costs €16, an annual revenue for the Vatican of around €80 million or £70 million a year.
4. Sisto’s chapel had the same dimensions – as described in the Old Testament – as the Temple of Solomon on Jerusalem’s Temple Mount.
5. Sisto conducted the first Mass in the chapel on August 15, 1483.
6. For such an important building the Sistine Chapel is remarkably plain outside – a high, block-like rectangular brick building without adornment. It has no grand façade and no processional entrance door: all entry points are internal, from other parts of the Papal Palace.
7. The Cappella Sistina served then (as now) as the pope’s private chapel.
8. A screen, or transenna, divides the chapel about two-thirds down to separate the pope and his entourage from pilgrims and the rest of any congregation.
9. The Sistine Chapel is most famous for Michelangelo’s frescoes, but long before Michelangelo, Sisto commissioned painters such as Botticelli to fresco the two long walls of the chapel: one side told the story of Moses, the other the story of Christ. Even without Michelangelo’s work, these earlier paintings still represent one of Europe’s greatest fresco cycles.
10. The pope who commissioned Michelangelo’s frescoes in 1508 was Julius II, the nephew of Sixtus IV. The English word nepotism derives from the Italian nipote, meaning ‘nephew’ from the papal practice of favouring relations. Often popes’ nephews were actually their sons.