By Maria Alambritis

On 9 August 1482, Francesco della Rovere (1414-1484) was elected as Pope Sixtus IV.

His papacy was characterised by an extensive urban renewal project for Rome and generous patronage of the arts. This included the establishment of the Vatican Library, featuring frescoes by Melozzo da Forli and the Capitoline Museum, the first public collection of antiquities in Europe; the construction of the Ponte Sisto, the first bridge to be built over the Tiber since antiquity; and the renewal of the only surviving ancient aqueduct, the Aqua Vergine, along with newly paved streets and squares throughout the city.

 Sixtus commissioned two major ecclesiastical buildings, that of the Augustinian monastery of Santa Maria del Popolo (1472–80) and Santa Maria della Pace (1478–83), as well as the Ospedale di Santo Spirito in Sassia (1473–82).

By far his most important artistic project at the Vatican however was the Sistine Chapel (1473-81). Sixtus commissioned the leading painters from across Italy for the fresco decoration, featuring scenes from the lives of Jesus Christ and Moses. The frecoes were completed on 15 August 1483, the feast day of the assumption of the Virgin. The chapel originally featured a fresco altarpiece by Perugino of the Assumption, which was later destroyed when replaced by Michelangelo’s Last Judgement (1537-41). The frescoes were painted by Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Perugino, Rosselli and Signorelli, with their assistants.

One of Antonio Pollaiuolo’s finest works is considered to be Sixtus’ bronze tomb, for which he was commissioned.


Blondin, Jill E. “Power Made Visible: Pope Sixtus IV as “Urbis Restaurator” in Quattrocento Rome”. In The Catholic Historical Review. 91: 1 (Jan., 2005): 1-25.

Goffen, Rona. “Friar Sixtus IV and the Sistine Chapel”
. Renaissance Quarterly. 39: 2 (Summer, 1986): 218-262

 Wohl, Hellmut and Sabine Eiche. “Rovere, della (i).” Grove Art Online. Oxford Art Online. Oxford University Press,


Melozzo da Forlì, Sixtus IV Founding the Vatican Library,c. 1476-7, fresco transferred to canvas, 3.75×3.25 m, Rome, Pinacoteca Vaticana.

Antonio Pollaiuolo, Monument of Sixtus IV 1484-93, bronze, length 445 cm, Basilica di San Pietro, Vatican.

Titian, Portrait of Sixtus IV, c. 1545-46, oil on panel, 109.5 × 87 cm, Uffizi.

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