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Sometimes, it's best to just keep working . . .
A Story of Perseverance

from the June 1998 Newsletter

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by Gary Priour

In the third year of Michelangelo’s 4-year continuous painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling, the artist fell from a scaffold onto cross members below. The fall crippled him, and he had to be carried to bed with broken ribs, serious lacerations and bruises.

While Michelangelo lay in bed, the College of Cardinals met over the dilemma. The Cardinals were under pressure from many directions. Some were confused and felt weary of the whole project. Press coverage had been negative and some reports referred to unorthodox and inappropriate sections of the painting. The Chapel, scheduled to be used as a meeting chamber for special sessions of the College, was not available. The project was already a year overdue. Additional financing had been required on numerous occasions.

Michelangelo himself had been difficult to deal with, and hadn’t followed the original instructions to render a simple painting of the Twelve Apostles. The Pope was now being criticized for choosing Michelangelo in the first place. On top of that, the Pope had supported his elaborate changes and the evolution of the whole project along the lines it had taken.

Now the artist was injured and there was question about whether he could finish. There were many other worthy painters in Italy at the time. A decision had to be made . . .

Michelangelo himself was weary and weak. The heat at the top of the dome had been almost unbearable, and his cloak was often covered with white lines of salt at the end of the day. Paint had dripped back onto his skin and into his eyes for three years, and he was having trouble seeing.

But on hearing what the Cardinals were discussing, the artist rose from his bed, asked his aides to configure a canvas sling, had himself hoisted up to the top scaffold, and resumed the work, recuperating while progress continued.