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So God created man...in His own image. In the image of God. He created him. Male and female. And God said: "Let the waters bring forth abundantly...moving creatures that have life. And fowl that may fly above the Earth...in the open firmament of heaven."
~ Michelangelo, being inspired

Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, also known as Michelangelo, was the protagonist of the 1965 film The Agony and the Ecstasy.

He was portrayed by the late Charlton Heston, who had also portrayed Judah Ben-Hur, Moses, and Robert Neville in the 1971 film The Omega Man.

A Florentine, Michelangelo grew up to become an artist. One of his early patrons was Lorenzo di Medici, who loved the young man almost like a son. Michelangelo became friends with Lorenzo's children Contessina and Giovanni (the future Leo X).

Coming to Rome, Michelangelo came under the employ of Pope Julius II. Shortly after Julius took office Michelangelo began working on a number of statutes that would someday be used for the tomb of the Pope. Julius had other ideas, and commissioned the young man to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel.

Dissatisfied with the design he was supposed to work with, Michelangelo fled Rome and hid in northern Italy. While in hiding he saw a sunrise that gave him an inspiration on a new design for the ceiling. Swallowing his pride he went back to Julius with plans to paint the ceiling. Julius agreed to allow him to paint the ceiling according to his plans.

Over the next several years Michelangelo painted the ceiling, working to the point of exhaustion. Additionally, Julius felt the painting was going way too slow, and would frequently pester Michelangelo with demands on when the ceiling would be complete. Michelangelo would tell him each time that he would make an end of the work when he was finished.

At one point the Pope became so frustrated with Michelangelo that he fired the young artist. Michelangelo's friends and fellow artists - having seen the work so far - begged him to apologize to the Pope so that he could finish the work. Apologizing to the Pope, Michelangelo was allowed to return to the ceiling and resume his work.

After a humiliating defeat in the battle, the Pope was left seriously injured. One night Michelangelo discovered Julius on top of the scaffolding, looking closely at the image of God and Adam that Michelangelo had recently finished. Michelangelo explained his conception of God as a benevolent being and Adam freely taking the gift of life.

The Pope suffered a devastating setback in his health, and it appeared that he would soon die. It was then that the Pope's allies stepped up to the plate and sent military support to Julius. Approaching the Pope, Michelangelo employed reverse psychology to get the Pope out of bed and resuming leadership of the church to preserve the alliance.

Michelangelo completed the ceiling a short time later. After the dedication ceremony Julius asked Michelangelo if he could do something about the wall behind the altar. Michelangelo protested that after the painting the Pope had originally promised Michelangelo that he could resume work on the tomb. When Michelangelo agreed to paint the wall behind the altar, the Pope backed down, stating that the tomb would be needed sooner rather than later.

Julius told Michelangelo that very soon he would meet God and would learn first hand if Michelangelo's conception of God was correct. When Michelangelo tried to tell Julius he had recovered before, Julius stated that it was because he had not completed his work, but that it was now complete and he was ready to go. Julius admitted he almost let Michelangelo stop work twice on the ceiling, and asked Michelangelo if he was glad that he did not do so, to which Michelangelo responded that he was.

Trivia

  • During the Counter Reformation the real Michelangelo would go on to paint the wall behind the altar. This was about 25 years after completing the ceiling and the subsequent death of Julius.
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