Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel Paintings Turn 500

Franco Origlia/Getty Images(VATICAN CITY) -- Five hundred years ago, Michelangelo put down his brush -- his masterpiece in the Sistine Chapel completed. The great master had toiled for years and years, and to this day, his efforts are still on display up on the ceiling.

Wednesday marked the 500th anniversary of the Michelangelo's completion of the painting on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. On Oct. 31, 1512, the "Warrior Pope" Julius II held a simple vespers prayer service for 17 cardinals to mark the completion of the masterpiece.

"The Sistine chapel is one of the world's great artistic treasures because of Michelangelo's frescoes. But it's always been one of the pope's personal chapels," said Vatican communications advisor Greg Burke.

"He just lets a few million people in to look at it every year," he added. Five-million per year to be precise. Some critics say that's too many, but efforts to try to limit the number of visitors have so far been rebuffed.  

Pope Benedict XVI commemorated the anniversary Wednesday by repeating Julius II's vespers service beneath the famous frescoes.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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