Dust, sweat and carbon dioxide brought into the Sistine Chapel by a swelling number of tourists risk damaging priceless Michelangelo frescoes, the Vatican said on Wednesday, hoping a new air conditioning and lighting system will protect them.
Some six million people a year visit the chapel, home to Michelangelo’s famous ceiling frescoes – one of the wonders of Western civilization that are over 500 years old.
The number of visitors to the chapel – where popes are elected in secret conclaves – can reach 20,000 a day in summer. Their numbers have grown by 300 percent from around 1.5 million a year in 1980, said Antonio Paolucci, the head of the Vatican museums.
“Today, the Sistine Chapel risks being a victim of its own success,” Paolucci, writing in the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, said.