Looking Up to Famous Ceilings

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Unless you’ve got a budding Michelangelo at home, it’s unlikely your ceiling will ever make any headlines. But there is a lesson to be learned from famous ceilings — if the view up above can be enough to turn a building into a tourist destination, there must be something to be said for well-decorated rafters.

Whether you’re in the market for tasteful crown moulding or a classy coffered ceiling in Phoenix, perhaps you can draw inspiration from a few of the world’s most famous ceilings:

Sistine Chapel, Italy

An obvious choice for a world-renowned ceiling, the Sistine Chapel features the work of Michelangelo. The artist was commissioned by two different Popes to paint the ceilings of the chapel, which resides in Vatican City. Featuring several depictions of biblical scenes, including the iconic image of God’s hand giving life to Adam, Michelangelo’s finished piece included 5,000 square feet of artwork.

Antwerp Central Station, Belgium

More than 187,000 square feet of vaulted iron and glass are one trademark of this lavish train station in Antwerp. The ornate ceiling, designed by architect J. Van Asperen, covers the train platforms as well as the adjacent cluster of diamond and gold shops known as the diamond district. The vaulted ceiling was originally created in the early 1900s, and an extensive restoration of the entire building took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Library of Congress, Washington D.C.

The lavish ceiling in this building is the lid on the largest library in the world, according to shelf space and number of books. The Great Hall portion of the library features stained-glass skylights, paneled carvings, Italian-style paintings and aluminum-leaf detailing. The United States government commissioned various artists to complete the extensive artwork and elaborate detailing, widely viewed as an effort for the young country to make an architectural mark on the world.

Einsiedeln Abbey, Switzerland

The abbey church in Einsiedeln features elaborately decorated pastel ceilings, off-setting the chapel’s gold and white decor. The building was designed by Kaspar Moosbrugger, a skilled mason and iconic figure in baroque-period architecture.

Church of the Savior on the Spilled Blood, St. Petersburg

Alexander III began building this structure in 1883 as a memorial to the site where his father, Alexander II, was fatally wounded. Construction reached completion 25 years later under the reign of Nicholas II. The otherwise ornate decor is juxtaposed in one area of the chapel, where the original cobblestones with the marks of Alexander II’s blood were left intact. The intricate mosaics covering the walls and ceiling were designed collaboratively by several well-known Russian artists.

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