Clean, Vacuum and Chill

Saving the Sistine Chapel

Visitors to the Sistine Chapel can expect to be cleaned, vacuumed and chilled before entering to see Michelangelo’s famous frescoes. The project, which the Vatican hopes to have completed by the end of this year, is one of several proposed by Antonio Paolucci, the director of the Vatican Museums.

“Dust, heat, humidity and carbon dioxide are the mortal enemies of paintings,” says Mr. Paolucci. With 5 million visitors passing through the Sistine Chapel each year, dirt, sweat and grime can quickly take a toll on the frescoes. Visitors will walk along a 100-meter shoe-cleaning carpet leading to the entrance and suction vents will vacuum off dust from clothing. Then, through a new climate control system, body temperature and humidity will be lowered.

In addition to this project, Mr. Paolucci is planning a virtual tour of the Sistine Chapel “as a space where visitors can sit and listen to an explanation of Michelangelo’s frescoes while images of the vault and the Last Judgement pass before their eyes, but in oceanic dimensions that would never be perceived in the real Sistine Chapel.” It is not meant to replace seeing the frescoes in person, but rather will enhance the visitor’s experience. The Vatican has also recently relocated its extensive photo archive to the first floor of the Vatican Museums near the front entrance

The Sistine Chapel, which also includes frescoes by other renowned artists such as Botticelli, Perugino, Signorelli, Pinturicchio, Ghirlandaio and Rosselli, went through a 20-year, $3 million renovation, which was completed in 1999.


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