Collections OnlineSistine ChapelNorth wall

The stories of Christ were originally distributed over eight panels, each one presented by a title in the upper frieze. They began with the Nativity painted by Perugino on the altar wall, subsequently destroyed to make room for Michelangelo's Last Judgement. Thus, today, the events of the life of Christ start from his Baptism (Matthew 3:13-17; Mark 1:9-11; Luke 3:21-22; John 1:29-34), which is followed by the Temptations of Christ (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1-13) and the Cleansing of the Leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16). The third shows in the foreground the Calling of the Apostles Peter and Andrew, while the call of James and John is shown in the background (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20; Luke 5:1-11). The next fresco illustrates the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew Ch. 5-7; Luke 6:12-49) and the curing of the leper (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16), while the fifth shows the Handing over of the keys (Matthew 16:13-20), that is to say the transfer of power from Christ to Peter, his vicar, as well as the two episodes of the Payment of the tribute (Matthew 17:24-27) and of the Attempted stoning of Christ (John 8:31-59;10:31-39) in the background. The series on this wall ends with the Last Supper (Matthew 26:17-29; Mark 14:12-25; Luke 22:7-23; John 13:21-30) in which, beyond the windows we can see three episodes of the Passion: the Agony in the garden (Matthew 26:36-46; Mark 14:32-42; Luke 22:39-46), the Arrest of Jesus (Matthew 26:47-56; Mark 14:43-52; Luke 22:47-53; John 18:1-11), the Crucifixion (Matthew 27:32-50; Mark 15:22-39; Luke 23:33-46; John 19:17-30). The cycle ends with the Resurrection of Christ (Matthew 28,1-8) on the entrance wall. Each panel of the stories has a corresponding false drape in the lower section with the enterprises of Sixtus IV. The series of Pontiffs ran along all the walls of the Chapel starting from that of the altar, in the centre of which could be seen Christ and the first pope Peter, as well as Linus and Cletus. The four figures were lost when Michelangelo, by order of Paul III, painted the Last Judgement on this wall in 1536. The Pontiffs are arranged in couples in niches beside the windows. The series does not run along the one wall, but they alternate with the opposite wall. The authors of the series are the same as those of the cycles of the lives of Moses and of Christ, that is to say, Pietro Perugino, Sandro Botticelli, Cosimo Rosselli and Domenico Ghirlandaio. The position of the various personages differs only slightly. They are usually shown as a full figure, in three-quarter profile with a book or scroll, or in the act of conferring blessing. In the lunettes and webs above, Michelangelo painted the Forefathers of Christ, the forerunners of his coming and therefore of the Redemption. They are listed at the beginning of the Gospel of St Matthew (Matthew 1:1-17), which, starting from Abraham, gives the names of forty forefathers of Christ (differing from the other version of the evangelist Luke, which, beginning from Adam, gives 75 families), shown here not so much as historical images but as symbolic figurations of mankind caught in various attitudes and above all in its formation into family units. Numerous attempts to link the names written on the labels to the personages depicted have not yet permitted them to be identified with any certainty.