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“I’m suffering greater hardships than ever man indured”

What words come to your mind when you see the famous ceiling of the Sistine Chapel?

"Creation of Adam" by Michelangelo, 1511-1512, Sistine Chapel, Rome

“Divine”? “Inspirational”? “Majestic”?

How about “belly out of whack” or “a thousand hazards”? How about “skull scrapes where a hunchback’s lump would be”? Or, “ill from the overwhelming labor”?

It took Michelangelo over 4 years of arduous toil to single-handedly complete the famous painting – the pain which he described in numerous vivid letters to friends. Michelangelo had to paint the ceiling while strapped face up to a 60-foot high platform, sometimes going weeks without taking a shower or changing his clothes, his eyes filling with ground pigment, suffering from vertigo, developing rheumatism, gout, stomach pains and tangled hambones.

"Last Judgement" by Michelangelo, Sistine Chapel, Rome Known for his cheeky sense of humor, the artist voiced his torment in writing with vivid, merciless black humor.

His feelings about the project are still on display today – it is generally believed that it was himself that Michelangelo depicted as an empty, worn-out hide about to be thrown away in the “Last Judgement” section of the ceiling fresco.

To learn more about this and other fascinating stories that shaped the history of Rome, pick up our “Chronicles of Old Rome: Exploring Italy’s Eternal City”.

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