Magazine article The Christian Century

Foot Traffic a Worry at the Sistine Chapel

Magazine article The Christian Century

Foot Traffic a Worry at the Sistine Chapel

Article excerpt

Five hundred years ago, on October 31, 1512, Pope Julius II led an evening prayer service to inaugurate the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo's newly finished vault frescoes. As Pope Benedict XVI on October 31 celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Renaissance masterpiece, the Vatican said the growing number of tourists who visit the historic site every year might eventually lead to limiting access to the chapel to help preserve the frescoes from human-borne problems and pollutants.

"We could limit access, introducing a maximum number of entries," wrote Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums, in L'Osservatore Romano, the Vatican's semiofficial newspaper. "We will do this, if the pressure from tourism were to increase beyond a reasonable level and if we were to fail in resolving the problem efficiently."

Paolucci stressed, however, that in his opinion such measures will not be necessary "in the short to medium term."

Some 5 million tourists visit the Sistine Chapel every year, with peaks of around 20,000 visitors per day, making preservation of the centuries-old frescoes an "arduous challenge." The "dust, the humidity which bodies bring with them inside, the carbon dioxide produced by perspiration" risk "damaging the painting in the long run," according to Paolucci.

The chapel, which is dominated on the altar wall by Michelangelo's later masterpiece, the Last Judgment, completed in 1541, is where cardinals congregate in strict secrecy to elect a new pope.

The vault's frescoes were painted by Michelangelo, who worked mostly lying on his back, between 1508 and 1512. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.