Michelangelo and the other Renaissance masters who created the frescoes in the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican could never have imagined that four-and-a-half million people a year would wander through to admire their handiwork.
The problem is that those tourists breathe, perspire and give off hair and dust – and that’s not good news for paintings that are 500 years old.
Following the first cleaning operation for four years, experts have expressed alarm at the state of the exquisite works.
The Director of the Vatican Museums, Prof Antonio Paolucci, said: “All the 4.5 million tourists who visit the Sistine Chapel each year bring in dust on their clothes and shoes.
“They shed tiny particles of skin and of course they breathe. We can’t do anything about that — if you don’t breathe, you die – but each human body increases the humidity inside the chapel. All this produces an accumulation of dust on the frescoes. They are not going to start crumbling tomorrow, but over a long period of time there is a danger that they will be damaged.”
Prof Paolucci said that with advanced technical instruments it was possible to maintain constant levels of humidity and temperature, but the systems used at the moment were between 15 and 20 years old and needed replacing. Vatican officials will work with technicians to ascertain how to replace the climate control system, with the cost as yet unknown.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re planning a visit to the Italian capital to take in the Vatican, don’t miss Luxique’s selection of luxury hotels in Rome.
One of the most distinctive sights for visitors to the Vatican is the men of the Swiss Guard in their blue, yellow and red uniforms and ceremonial halberds.
Recruits, who swear allegiance to the Pope, are traditionally single men from Switzerland, where they must have undergone basic military training.
An important pre-condition might soon change, however, because the force’s new commander has said he’s considering bringing in women. Colonel Daniel Anrig said logistical problems at the barracks of the 110-strong Guards could be resolved simply by building separate living accommodation.
He said the female recruits could perform a number of duties carried out by male members of the force. “Certainly we can think about this,” said Colonel Anrig.
Most Swiss Guards find their greatest battle is putting up with thousands of tourists asking the same questions: “Is there a bathroom?” “Which way to the museum?” and “Why can’t I see the Pope?”
As anyone who’s been to the Vatican can confirm, they attend to these day after day with patience and sometimes even a smile.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re planning a visit to the Italian capital, to take in the Vatican, don’t miss Luxique’s selection of luxury hotels in Rome.
The Vatican is doing its best to go green.
Christmas at St. Peter
The largest Christmas tree ever to be placed in St Peter’s Square was lit up last Saturday and the Vatican says all the wood will be recycled to make toys for needy children and benches for schools.
The 33-metre (109-foot) red spruce, which is about 120 years old, came from the forests of southern Austria. Hundreds of pilgrims from Austria sang carols in the pouring rain as the tree was officially unveiled.
It’s decorated with 2,000 gold and silver balls, white lights and a shining star. It stands next to a larger-than-life-sized Nativity scene, which will be unveiled on Christmas Eve.
The recycling of the wood after Christmas is the Vatican’s latest effort to be environmentally conscious. Last month, it activated a large system of solar panels on the roof of its audience hall.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re planning a trip to Rome and Vatican City, Luxique has a selection of the finest luxury hotels in Rome.