Architects and interior designers agree that rooms and large spaces actually have at least five walls: The fifth wall is the room's ceiling. Ceilings are often painted flat white and forgotten about, but in reality, ceiling design can change a room. Historically, designers, builders, and artists around the world have known this and have carefully designed and executed absolute masterpieces using building elements, height, and decorated tiles to define the spaces and allow visitors to marvel at the artistry above their heads.
Even before Michelangelo began planning what would become one of the most famous ceilings in the world, the space was already decorated. Initially, the Sistine Chapel ceiling looked like a night sky. Pope Julius II asked Michelangelo to repaint the ceiling in 1508, requesting that it include imagery of the 12 apostles. Michelangelo had another idea: He got the pope's permission to paint scenes from the Old Testament. The nine religious frescoes were completed in 1512. They are grouped by theme, and Michelangelo incorporated the architecture of the ceiling to divide his frescoes. The nine scenes depicted show images of Heaven, the Garden of Eden, and Earth.
The Royal Family of Brussels commissioned artist Jan Fabre to create a new ceiling for the Mirror Room in their Royal Palace. Fabre had his team glue more than 1.5 million jewel beetles onto the ceiling over four months. Each beetle, sourced from Thailand, was glued into place on the ceiling individually. The work is known as "Heaven of Delight," and the royal family regularly hosts events under the one-of-a-kind ceiling.
The Alhambra sits on top of a rocky cliff overlooking the city of Granada. The building is considered to be the best example of how Moorish design influenced Spanish architecture. There is very little Byzantine influence in the design. It's considered a showcase of the last golden age of Granada's Andalusian art style. The ceilings are designed in a style reminiscent of stalactites found in caves. This style is known as muqarnas.
- Inside the Alhambra: The Nasrid Palace
- Hall of the Ambassadors
- The Ultimate Guide to Granada's Alhambra
The vaulted ceiling of London's Natural History Museum's Hintze Hall has a secret. The high, arched ceiling is covered in 162 illustrated tiles. Each intricate tile tells a story about the development of human civilization. The rise and fall of great empires, the work of explorers, and more are all displayed up on the ceiling. Together, they form a mosaic of human history. Artist Charles James Lea designed each panel before the museum opened in 1881.
Michelangelo has another great ceiling to his credit. St. Peter's Basilica is home to the tallest dome in the world, and the view of the interior ceiling of the dome is breathtaking. Architect Donato Bromante initially designed the structure, but construction carried on for 40 troubled years, during which time five other architects were involved with the project. Finally, Michelangelo took on the challenge of learning architecture and spent the final years of his life redesigning and completing the structure. Michelangelo didn't live to see the building completed, but even today, the dome dominates the Roman skyline. The ceiling features eye-catching gold details.
- The Dome
- St. Peter's Basilica's Dome
- How Michelangelo Spent His Final Years Designing St. Peter's Basilica in Rome
Located in England, York Minster's original cathedral was built in the 7th century. Over the centuries, it suffered multiple bouts of fire damage, and the original crypt and choir were rebuilt starting in 1154. At that time, a chapel in honor of St. Sepulchre was added. Although Gothic architecture was already fashionable around Europe, York Minster was built in an older style. The South Transept was built in 1220 and the North Transept a few years later. Each has its own distinct style. The Chapter House was added later. The vaulted ceiling is considered a work of art and an excellent example of the then-popular Gothic Decorated style of architecture and design. The ribbed wooden roof supports can be seen from the interior, and the beautifully delicate stained glass windows offset it.
- 18 Incredible York Minster Facts
- York Minster Interactive Map
- York Minster Cathedral: Chapter House Ceiling
Boldt Castle was an impressive ruin when the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority decided to invest millions in its restoration after the organization took over ownership in 1977. A stained-glass dome was created by a local architectural firm in collaboration with Julie Sloan, one of the best-known historic stained glass experts in the United States. The dome is suspended more than 80 feet above the floor of the castle's main hall, and it's is made up of 48 sections containing more than 6,000 pieces of hand-painted glass.
- The Castle Interior
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- Boldt Castle, Heart Island, Thousand Islands, New York