Michelangelo’s Room at the Vatican in Rome

Michelangelo’s Room at the Vatican in Rome

La Republica has reported that during the last 17 years of his life, Michelangelo lived in a small room inside the Basilica of St. Peter’s. According to Vatican experts, Michelangelo was the pope’s chief architect during that period.

It is thought that Michelangelo lived there from January 1547 until his death on February 18, 1564. At the time the basilica was still under construction. Michelangelo had last worked at the Vatican while working on his Last Judgment fresco in the Sistine Chapel between 1534 and 1541.

A receipt from March 1557 shows that an engraver was paid “10 scudi to make a key for a chest in the room in St. Peter’s where Master Michelangelo retires to.” According to Simona Turriziani, a Vatican archivist, 10 scudi in the 1550s was more than the monthly salary of many of the artisans working on the basilica.

The entry was made in ink and is in a parchment-covered volume that lists expenditures of the Fabbrica di San Pietro (the office where the basilica’s archives are kept) for the years 1556-1558.

Historians have long suspected that Michelangelo lived inside the Vatican. Finding the 450 year old receipt corroborates their theory but leaves another mystery unsolved. The exact location of the room is not known.

“Michelangelo lived inside the basilica. No one before had been able to verify it. This document casts new light on a theory that until yesterday we could only imagine,” art historian Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella told La Repubblica. “We now know that Michelangelo definitely had a private space in the basilica,” Maria Cristina Carlo-Stella, said in an interview with The Associated Press this week. “The next step is to identify it.”

The room where Michelangelo was thought to have lived is now a library inside the Basilica’ Historic Archives. The room has been called “la stanza di Michelangelo” or Michelangelo’s room. However, researchers now say that room did not exist during Michelangelo’s tenure at the Vatican. It was built as part of a renovation that
occurred after his death.

“The theory is very romantic and conspiratorial, but totally unfounded,” said Federico Bellini, an art historian who works in the archive department, as he pointed to a 16th-century sketch on his computer showing the state of the left wing during Michelangelo’s time at the Vatican – a pile of rubble intertwined with vegetation. (From an article by Daniela Petroff for the Associated Press)

The Fabbrica, whose documents date from as far back as 1506, was originally located in the right wing of the basilica. That area had already been built at the time of Michelangelo. It is known that artisans lived in that section of the Vatican and experts are now looking for evidence of Michelangelo’s room there.

Michelangelo not only created the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel but designed the central dome or cupola of the basilica. The dome of the basilica is one of the architectural wonders of the world.

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