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In the 12,000 square feet of the world's largest fresco, there was not a single Christian figure to be found.

The only nod to the Gospels - and one of the ways Michelangelo managed to save both his life and the painting - was a barely-noticeable series of names of the Jewish ancestors of Jesus that do not even appear in chronological order. Michelangelo had a hidden agenda: to remind the Church that its roots were grounded in the Torah given to the Jewish people.

A true Renaissance man, Michelangelo was at home in philosophy as well as art; in Christian theology as well as Jewish mysticism.

However, those who have studied his work in the past generally have not been conversant with the wide corpus of knowledge that forged him as an artist.

"Just as the work of Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel changed forever the world of art, so will this book change forever the way to view and, above all, to understand the work of Michelangelo," said Enrico Bruschini, official art historian for the U. Embassy in Rome and a leading expert on the art of Rome and the Vatican.

(This detail was not revealed for modern audiences until the frescoes were restored in 2001.) This patch displays the badge of shame forced on the Jews of Europe by the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215 and the Inquisition during the 15th Century.

Here, directly over the head of the pope, the Vicar of Christ, Michelangelo was reminding the Church that Jesus was a Jew.

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In the heart of the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel is the site of the conclave where every new pope is elected.