Tourist Numbers Threaten Vatican's Sistine Chapel

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Large numbers of tourists may be ruining the priceless artworks in the Sistine Chapel, the head of the Vatican Museum is warning.

Antonio Paolucci tells the newspaper La Repubblica, that visitors to the famous chapel unwittingly bring with them dust and polluting agents. These, he says, could endanger works like Michelangelo's "Last Judgment."

The chapel gets as many as 20,000 visitors a day, who come to see the frescoes, mosaics and paintings, in the place where popes are elected.

"In this chapel people often invoke the Holy Spirit. But the people who fill this room every day aren't pure spirits," Paolucci tells the newspaper.

"Such a crowd ... emanates sweat, breath, carbon dioxide, all sorts of dust," he said. "This deadly combination is moved around by winds and ends up on the walls, meaning on the artwork."

Paolucci is calling for a study to see if new methods for temperature and humidity control would help the situation before there is "serious damage."



Photo, Estaquio Santimano, flickr
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