Lonely Planet Writer

Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel has been lovingly replicated in Mexico

For the last 18 years, a retired graphic designer has been quietly painting a replica of Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel at his local church in Mexico City. Miguel Francisco Macias began his opus in an attempt to offer people who cannot travel a glimpse at one of the most shining examples of European art, Macias told Aljazeera.

Travel News - MEXICO-VATICAN-SISTINE CHAPEL-REPRODUCTIONS
Miguel Francisco Macias shows the of copies of the original paintings by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel.

The project, which is now displayed on the ceiling at Perpetuo Socorro Church in Colonia Moctezuma, was largely self-funded with small donations from parishioners. Macias worked on the weekends with two assistants. The work was divided into 14 canvases each of which is 45-feet wide. Macias knew from the beginning that he would not be able to paint facing up, the way Michelangelo did, so he painted the canvases first and then affixed them to the ceiling afterwards.

Travel News - MEXICO-VATICAN-SISTINE CHAPEL-REPRODUCTIONS
Elizabeth Ramirez, an assistant to Miguel Francisco Macias, works on a copy of the original paintings by Michelangelo from the Sistine Chapel, in the church of "Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro" Image by YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Macias said he was inspired to replicate Michelangelo’s frescoes not just because it is a stunning work of art, but because he realised the Sistine Chapel ceiling has almost the same dimensions as his local church, reported Splinter.  The realisation came to Macias on a trip to Rome with a friend in 1999. The artist spent hours in the chapel admiring the frescos. “I stayed until the guard made me leave,” Macias remembers. He also measured the length and width of the Sistine Chapel with footsteps. He wrote the dimensions on a small sheet of paper and presented his idea to the pastor on his return. While the area of the ceiling at Perpetuo Socorro Church is roughly the same as the Sistine Chapel, it is lower, so Macias' paintings appear bigger than Michaelangelo’s originals.

Travel News - MEXICO-VATICAN-SISTINE CHAPEL-REPRODUCTIONS
Gustavo Moreno, an assistant to Miguel Francisco Macias, prepares to work on copies of the original paintings by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel. Image by YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Macias didn’t think the project would take him nearly as long as it did. “I said it would be a maximum of six years,” he told Newsbeezer.   While the project suffered many setbacks, including falls, floods and robberies, none was so potentially insulting as when the Mexico City government used taxpayer money to temporarily recreate the Sistine Chapel in the Zocolo in 2016 ahead of a visit from the Pope.

Travel News - MEXICO-VATICAN-SISTINE CHAPEL-REPRODUCTIONS
The paintings are reproduced in the church of "Nuestra Senora del Perpetuo Socorro". Image by YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images

Although the community rallied behind Macias and wrote letters requesting that the Pope visit Macias' work in progress in addition to the government’s pop-up, they didn’t get the holy visit they were hoping for. Macias didn’t let it bother him and kept a sign in his make-shift studio that read, “do not give up Miguelito.”   “I think this was something that God wanted me to do,” Macias said.