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Sistine Chapel ceiling turns 500

  |   Nov. 1, 2012 at 2:16 PM
VATICAN CITY, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- The Sistine Chapel's famous painted ceiling, the signature work of Renaissance artist Michelangelo, turned 500 years old Thursday.

The chapel was first dedicated by Pope Julius II della Rovere on Nov. 1, 1512. The famous Renaissance painter at first declined Pope Julius II's commission for fear he wouldn't be up to the task. Michelangelo was primarily known as a sculptor, CNN said.

Michelangelo cast about for some time struggling with the project before a conversation with a noted theologian of the time about the creation stories told in Genesis struck a chord. The 12,000-square-foot ceiling's centerpiece shows God reaching down to touch Adam's finger, thereby creating the first man on Earth.

The chapel, which also serves as the location for papal conclaves when the College of Cardinals gathers in the Vatican to elect a new pope, was restored in 1994. Pope John Paul II said at the time it is a magnificent place for pilgrims the world over to visit.

"This is a priceless cultural and universal heritage," he said. "This is confirmed by the countless pilgrims from every nation in the world who come to admire the work of the supreme masters and to recognize in this Chapel a sort of wonderful synthesis of painting."

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