During the Renaissance, Italy teemed with some of the most brilliant artists who ever lived. They transformed the country with their paintbrushes and chisels. Their work wasn't contained to statues and paintings. They aren't even limited to murals painted on walls. These artists worked on every plane available to them, and that included ceilings. Most people know about Michelangelo's masterpiece, the Sistine Chapel ceiling. It's not the only masterpiece above that tourists flock to look at in Italy. The following ceilings are also incredible works of art.
Basilica of San Francesco
The Basilica of San Francesco was built during the 1220s to honor St. Francis. The architecture was purposefully designed to be simple so the frescoes that adorn its walls and ceiling could truly shine. The second story of the basilica is completely covered in frescoes so that no matter where visitors look, they are surrounded by color. The frescoes tell stories from both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The biblical depictions are colorful and highly detailed.
- Frescoes on the Ceiling of the North Transept of the Lower Church
- Upper Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi
- St. Francis Basilica Frescoes Bound with Milk
- When a Quake Strengthens a Basilica
Camera degli Sposi
Artist Andrea Mantegna spent forty-six years working for the Gonzaga family. His work on the Gonzaga Family Palace features extraordinary use of painting techniques and color. The frescoes he painted showcase members of the family and celebrate their power and accomplishments. What makes the ceiling in the space so unique is his use of the painting technique known as trompe l'oeil to make the sky painting on the ceiling come alive. It creates the illusion of looking up through a round window toward the sky with cherubs and other figures looking back down at the viewer. The name of the room translates to "the Wedding Chamber" because Mantegna also worked images of Ludovico Gonzaga and his wife on their wedding day into the frescoes.
- Andrea Mantegna | Frescos in Palazzo Ducale in Mantua, La Camera degli Sposi (1467?-1474) (The Wedding Chamber)
- Visitor's Guide to Mantegna's Groundbreaking Camera degli Sposi in Mantua Italy
- Andrea Mantegna, Camera Picta (Camera degli Sposi)
- Camera degli Sposi, Palazzo Ducale Mantua
Chapel of San Brizio
Until Michaelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel, Luca Signorelli's frescoes in the Chapel of San Brizio might have been the most famous ceiling in Italy. The work began in 1499. Signorelli's frescoes that featured the damned being tortured and men pulling themselves out of the ground at Resurrection were a big influence on Michelangelo. Signorelli's work feels more modern than that of other artists from the Renaissance period. His use of color and his subject matter would be right at a home in a modern graphic novel.
- San Brizio Chapel in Orvieto Cathedral
- A Renaissance Chapel in a Gothic Cathedral: The Dramatic, Divergent Interiors of Duomo di Orvieto
- Guide To Orvieto Cathedral, A Stunning UNESCO Site In Umbria
- Signorelli's Beautiful, Terrifying Frescoes in Orvieto
The House of Augustus and Livia
One of the most architecturally significant homes is that of Emperor Caesar Augustus. At the time, it was considered humble in scale but flawless in its choice of decorations and art. Augustus and Livia had separate homes. Livia's had marble floors and more ornate pillars. Augustus's home didn't use marble as a building material and was actually rather small. The preservation of both homes is remarkable, and both give the feeling as though their owners have simply stepped out for a moment and will return at any time. Augustus shied away from using marble, but he wasn't shy about hiring artists to fresco his walls and ceilings. The frescoes have been impressively restored given their age.
- The Houses of Augustus and Livia on the Palatine Hil
- Guide to the House of Augustus on Palatine Hill, with Rome's Best Preserved Frescos
- The House of Livia in Rome
- The House of Augustus and Livia on the Palatine Augustan Compound
The Pantheon was built around 128 C.E. and is one of the best-preserved examples of Ancient Roman architecture. The structure is built on the site of an earlier building that was built to honor the Roman Gods. The modern Pantheon features a domed ceiling topping a rotunda. At the time, it was the largest domed ceiling ever built at about 142 feet around. The dome features an opening, known as an oculus that measures about 27 feet around. The oculus is uncovered to let the Pantheon be flooded with light.
- 10 Things You Didn't Know About the Pantheon, Rome
- Interior of the Pantheon
- Pantheon, Rome, 126 A.D
Hidden inside the ornate Duomo of Siena is the Piccolomini Library. Frescoes celebrating Pope Pius II fill the space. They were commissioned by the Pope's nephew, Francesco Todeschini, who eventually became Pope Pius III. Todeschini wanted ten moments from his uncle's life depicted. Additionally, the ceiling has its own artwork installed over it featuring gold leaf. The space is also filled with illuminated manuscripts from the collection of Pius II.
- The Duomo of Siena: A Masterpiece from Floor to Ceiling
- The Cathedral of Siena (Part 6): The Piccolomini Library
- Siena Cathedral Piccolomini Library
- Prada, Fashion, and the Siena Cathedral
Padua is home to one of the oldest universities in the world and a chapel dating back to the 14th century that's beloved by art enthusiasts around the world. The chapel was built in 1302, after being commissioned by Enrico Scrovengi. Scrovengi felt immense guilt over the fact his family's fortune was made from money lending and usury. Building the temple was a way to ask God's forgiveness. Giotto, a painter from Florence, was hired to do the frescoes. One challenge Giotto faced was how to incorporate paintings and tell a story on the barrel ceiling. The building tells the entire story of the New Testament through a series of striking images.
- Scrovegni Chapel Frescoes
- 6 Things You Must Know About Scrovegni Chapel
- These Frescoes Shattered Conventions in the Italian Art World
- Daily Dose of Europe: Giotto's Scrovegni Chapel
Michelangelo was commissioned in 1508 to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. The walls were already covered with the work of some of the most talented and celebrated Italian Renaissance artists, but soon Michelangelo's ceiling would surpass them all. The ceiling took four years to complete and tells the story of Genesis starting with creation and ending with Noah and his ark. The ambition, skill, and scope of the work intrigues art lovers and tourists to this day.