The greatest single expression of genius in Western art has a soundtrack that's really a loop, and the first bar of it comes from the Vatican security guards attempting to remind the throng of hundreds in the room, craning their necks to examine the ceiling, that they're in a sacred space and need to respect the many posted requests for silence. The great shushing is often followed by a handclap, which induces a period relative quiet, interspersed occasionally by the other major security admonition: "No photos! No photos!" Then a portion of the crowd shuffles out and new visitors arrive, and the volume of conversation starts to swell and the loop begins again.
This is the most unexpected part of the introduction to the Chapel for the Sistine virgin. The rest of it - and here I'm talking all the works besides the most famous one of God about to give the spark of life to Adam - is both familiar and surprising: familiar because anyone exposed to even an introductory art history class has seen them all already many times (like Perugino's "Christ Handing the Keys to St. Peter," a standard in the use of perspective); surprising even with that familiarity becausre you're still overwhelmed by the staggering volume of work, by the way each of the pieces of the ceiling relate to each other, and by the way none of them relate to the masterpieces by other artists which fill three of the walls below the ceiling, let alone to the stunning azure blue landscape of Michaelangelo's "Last Judgment," which fills the wall behind the altar.
The latter work is famous for being commissioned three decades after the ceiling was completed, when Michaelangelo was an old man, resented the commission (but you don't refuse a Pope), and battled endlessly with the pope's advisors over the content. One of the real lessons of it? Don't feud with a cranky old man wielding a brush. Just ask Biagio da Cesena, the then-Pope's Master of Ceremonies, who objected to all the nude figures in the piece and found himself portrayed as one of the victims consigned to hell, preserved for posterity in the lower right corner with a serpent chomping on his balls.