Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Michelangelo's Last Judgment


Minos Within the Last Judgment
Minos, shown at the bottom right of this detail, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Last Judgment (fresco 48 x 44 feet) in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican.
Minos, shown at the bottom right of this detail, as depicted by Michelangelo in the Last Judgment (fresco 48 x 44 feet) in the Sistine Chapel, Vatican.

At the bottom right corner of the Last Judgment (1536-41), Michelangelo shows Minos, the king of hell, with a serpent wound tightly around him, an indicator of the circle of hell to which each damned soul must descend. Michelangelo chose to render Minos as a stinging caricature of his enemy Biagio da Cesena (a Vatican official who declared Last Judgment unfit for sacred walls) complete with ass's ears and a serpent striking his genitalia. This horrible portrayal of the punishment awaiting the damned is more than just the artist's spiteful response to criticism from the papal chamberlain. The scene also bears witness to Michelangelo's religious belief in an absolute Creator, majestic and severe in his final judgment.

The next page describes another detail from scene of the entrance to hell. Read about Charon and the connection to Dante Alighieri's Inferno.

To learn more about Michelangelo, art history, and other famous artists, see: