iPlayer Radio What's New?
On Now : In Tune
James MacMillan, Pierre-Laurent Aimard, Steven Isserlis Trench Cello
Image for God and the Sistine Chapel

Listen now 15 mins

Listen in pop-out player

God and the Sistine Chapel

The Essay, Painting Genesis Episode 1 of 4

15 minutes
First broadcast:
Monday 29 October 2012

God and the Sistine Chapel

Each year millions of visitors marvel at the artistry and beauty of the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo was commissioned to undertake the project by Pope Julius II in 1508 and, with work on the scaffolding proving physically and emotionally agonizing for the reluctant artist, he recounted, "After four tortured years, more than 400 over life-size figures, I felt as old and as weary as Jeremiah. I was only 37, yet friends did not recognize the old man I had become."

On November 1 1512, All Saint's Day, the Chapel was unveiled to the world as Pope Julius II celebrated mass there for the first time in four years. According to Giorgio Vasari, Michelangelo's pupil, those who attended were left "speechless with astonishment" by the ceiling's technical mastery and scale.

Michelangelo had decorated the heart of the work, the central ceiling vault, with nine scenes from the Book of Genesis: three depicting the Creation, three the fall of Adam and Eve and three the story of Noah.

Now, to mark the 500th anniversary of the completion of the commission, four contrasting figures offer personal responses to Michelangelo's Genesis paintings.

Tonight Rev Lucy Winkett, Rector of St James's church in London's Piccadilly, explores what Michelangelo's masterpiece has to say to Christians of today, and considers the image of God that emerges from Michelangelo's vision.



  1. Image for BBC World War One

    BBC World War One

    BBC Radio brings you stories of the war that changed who we are, with documentaries exploring the…

  2. Image for Music and Culture of WW1

    Music and Culture of WW1

    Highlights of BBC Radio 3’s special programmes to mark the WW1 centenary. Classical music, art,…

  3. Image for Radio 3 Essay

    Radio 3 Essay

    Authored essays from leading writers on arts, history, philosophy, science, religion and beyond,…

  4. Image for Spirit of Schubert

    Spirit of Schubert

    BBC Radio 3 tells you everything you need to know about Franz Schubert. These free downloads will…

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Added. Check out your playlist Dismiss