The Vatican Will Vacuum the Dirt Off Visitors to the Sistine Chapel to Protect it

A visit to the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City can be overwhelming, and not just because of the breathtaking Michelangelo frescoes hovering over your head. The crowds can number in the tens of thousands per day, all trekking in some sort of dust or dirt that can be detrimental to the 16th-century art. Soon these small particles of pollution and flakes of hair and skin will be vacuumed from visitors before entering what Pope John Paul II appropriately called “the sanctuary of the theology of the human body.”

All that body heat and exhaled carbon dioxide is also a major problem, and the Guardian quotes Antonio Paolucci, Director of the Vatican Museums, on the careful cleansing that each visitor will go through: “We will cover the 100 metres before the entrance with a carpet that cleans shoes; we will install suction vents on the sides to suck dust from clothes and we will lower temperatures to reduce the heat and humidity of bodies.”

Previously, they relied on an air extraction system, but it is now 20 years old and unable to combat the film of dirt forming on the frescos, that were restored not too long ago between 1980 and 1994. And for Paolucci, limiting visitors isn’t an option, as he wants to keep it accessible to the masses. Perhaps other museums and monuments will undertake similar measures for preservation, as anyone who has been jostled in the hordes at the world’s cultural landmarks knows all that sweaty chaos can’t be good for the art.
Allison Meier

(Image: The Sistine Chapel, via Ramon Stoppelenburg/Flickr)