One of the must-see sights in Rome is the Vatican Museum, culminating in the Sistine Chapel. Each year over four million visitors purchase tickets and stand in line to experience the masterpieces by Renaissance painters Raphael, Botticelli, Perugino, Signorelli, Rosselli, and Michelangelo. In the summer, the number of visitors can easily exceed over 25,000 each day. If you are one of them, you may unknowingly be contributing to potential damage of the priceless frescoes within this historic museum
In a recent statement to L’Osservatore Romano, Vatican Museum chief Antonio Paolucci warned that the crowds of visitors are adding dust and pollution to the air, contributing to damage found on some of Michelangelo’s famous artwork. If you have ever toured the Vatican Museum, you can attest to the wall-to-wall crowds in a small space. During a routine cleaning this past summer, the artwork in the Sistine Chapel displayed some signs of damage. Paolucci explained that the large numbers of visitors bring in untold amounts of dust, dirt and grime on their shoes and clothing.
“Such a crowd…emanates sweat, breath, carbon dioxide, all sorts of dust. This deadly combination is moved around by winds and ends up in the walls, meaning on the artwork.”
Paolucci added that the museum needs to update the temperature and humidity control systems, in order to avoid further damage to the art. He has arranged to have the situation studied to determine the best methods of improving the situation.
It took a group of thirty restoration experts to work at night for a period of one month, meticulously removing dust, using goat hair brushes, from the frescoes on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. This was the first cleaning in over four years, and those involved were extremely concerned. Paolucci described the damage as “unimaginable quantities of dust and sediment.” The four million plus annual visitors have taken a toll.
Paolucci has no intention of instituting rigid visiting restrictions such as exist at the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church in Milan, where Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper resides. With so many crowds coming to view that particular painting, there is a limit of 25 persons every 15 minutes. Visitors also have to walk through a special filtration system prior to viewing The Last Supper. This reduces the exposure to so many dirt particles and pollutants.
For a virtual tour of the Vatican’s Sistine Chapel, you can click on this link, courtesy of the Vatican.
Virtual Tour Sistine Chapel
Catholic News Agency