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Visiting Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel - The Exhibition

Beyond Orange County

Visiting Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel – The Exhibition

The internationally renown exhibit, Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel – The Exhibition, has arrived at Christ Cathedral in Southern California. It is a one of a kind experience of the original fresco of the Sistine Chapel in Rome.

If you have been fortunate enough to visit the original in Vatican City, then you know it’s beautiful BUT hard to really enjoy it. The crowds, the NO pictures, plus the guards constantly telling people to keep moving. You feel like you’re being herded out of the room. The Sistine Chapel Exhibit is nothing like that.

Getting to exhibit might be overwhelming. Christ Cathedral has a couple of buildings and it can be daunting. We found that at all driveway entrances had signs showing where to go for Sistine Chapel Exhibit. The exhibit is housed in the Cultural Center which is a four story silver plated building. Entrance is through glass doors where you’ll head to second floor.

The exhibit offers FREE parking at its campus.

From Chapman Ave:  Pass the Christ Cathedral Academy on right side, then pass Christ Cathedral on left side and turn left to park.

From Lewis: Head straight and follow curving path, pass Arboretum building, then tall building with cross on top. Cultural Center is next to building with cross on top. Parking is on left side.

Once inside the host are very helpful at explaining details of exhibit. We got the audio tour which cost an extra $3 and is worth every penny. Attendants gave us a quick demonstration on how it works. They offer five language options, English, Spanish, German, French and Mandarin, and planning to add Vietnamese soon. You can take your own headphones with regular jack or just do like us and hold audio speaker to ear. At each painting, slide audio receiver over audio tour picture to start explanation.

The exhibit is not meant to replace a visit to the actual Sistine Chapel but offer visitors another viewing experience. The host explained how the creator got a close view of original giving the exhibit more credibility. The paintings are very close to actual size just now instead of sixty five feet away they are up an close. Each painting has a description of characters or bible story plus with the audio tour you get a behind the scenes of Michelangelo’s reasons for depicting scene as he did. The description also has a picture highlighted of where the painting is located in the original.

The main center hall was my favorite. It brought back memories of visiting the Sistine Chapel in Rome. It is set up in the same order as they are in original, from entrance to exit. The nine large paintings in center of Sistine Chapel are divided into three themes. This was Michelangelo’s genius at storytelling. First three paintings are about Noah, the second three are First Humans, and last three God’s Creations. I loved how the exhibit keeps the order and having them in ceiling true to original.

After the long hall you will find more paintings of prophets, there are seven prophets depicted in the entire fresco. I liked how Michelangelo added interesting details to placements of paintings, like putting Prophet Zechariah at entrance of chapel. Zechariah had prophesied the messiah would come to people of Jerusalem and Michelangelo included his prophecy at entrance of chapel. I loved learning all these hidden tidbits and details not easily seen in original.

We couldn’t have a Sistine Chapel Exhibit without a huge depicting of the most famous part of the fresco, The Creation of Man. This piece is not in it’s original spot, in the middle of the ceiling exhibits. The Creation of Man is on its own spot and hard to miss. I loved getting up and close and noting God’s and Adams features. It is said that this was the first time a painter painted God in his full physique. The details in body image and expressions are what makes this masterpiece still relevant.

One thing that you cannot miss is the quick video explaining the back story of Michelangelo creating the Sistine Chapel. It is done in cartoon style and has lots of funny historical information about Michelangelo. The video is a must for anyone visiting and if you take kids this will give them a break from looking at paintings.

Speaking of kids, the paintings feature many naked bodies in their full glory, you have been warned.

One painting that is a bit hidden is The Last Judgement. This painting in original Sistine Chapel is behind the main altar of chapel. It is a grim depicting of heaven and hell. This painting has so many details and characters and it can be a bit much. Take your time and really appreciate each different scenario. I could have spent a good time sitting in bench just analyzing it.

The Sistine Chapel ceiling paintings are one of the most famous art pieces of Michelangelo and having this exhibit is a treat. It is great for people who have visited the original and those hoping one day to go. Don’t just go quickly from one painting to the next, read the story and if you have audio tour, listen to the complete description. The entire exhibit typical takes guests about one hour, but some have been known to take hours.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Exhibit will be at Christ Cathedral until January 2019 and showing daily, except major holidays.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Exhibition


Cathedral Cultural Center, Christ Cathedral Campus

13280 Chapman Ave., Garden Grove, CA


Now-January 11th, 2020


Sunday-Thursday: 10am-5pm

Friday-Saturday: 10am-8pm


$18   General Admission
$12    Seniors/Military/College students with ID
$9      Children 7-18 years
$10    Groups of 10 or more (per person)

Discounted Tickets

Get two general admission discounted tickets for $21.50 via Groupon to Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Exhibition. Tickets valid through January 11. 

This exhibition is a great family-friendly holiday event! Click to see our list of Fall Things to Do with the whole family while you’re out and about this month. 

Originally published on October 4, 2019. Last Updated on October 4, 2019 by Pattie Cordova

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