Vatican to limit Sistine Chapel visitor numbers

Visitors to the chapel can reach 20,000 a day in summer

The Vatican will restrict the number of visitors to the Sistine Chapel (pictured) to six million a year to protect Michelangelo’s delicate frescoes from damage caused by ever-growing crowds of tourists.

Visitors to the chapel can reach 20,000 a day in summer, with up to 2,000 inside at a time.

The director of the Vatican Museums, Professor Antonio Paolucci, explained that the great influx of visitors necessitated “a radical intervention guaranteeing the circulation of air, the reduction of dust and other contaminants, temperature and humidity control and an acceptable level of carbon dioxide, factors that, in the long term, may pose a threat to the conservation of mural paintings, in this case the 2500 square metres that constitute the most important artistic anthology of the Italian Renaissance”.

A new lighting system was also necessary, to provide gentle but total illumination, non-invasive and respecting the complex iconographic, stylistic and historic reality of the Sistine Chapel.

This involved no special spotlight on Michelangelo, but instead provided the possibility of a calm, objective and delicate observation of every detail of “this great catechism that three Popes – Sixtus IV, Julius II and Paul III – wished to display along the walls and on the ceiling of the ‘chapel of the world’”.