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Sistine Chapel tourists to be "dusted, cleaned and chilled"

That's the latest prescription to deal with the fresco-imperiling hordes that pass through the famous sanctuary every year:

Visitors who traipse sweat, dust, skin flakes and hair into the 16th-century chapel will be "dusted, cleaned and chilled", Antonio Paolucci [director of the Vatican Museums] told the Italian daily Corriere della Sera. The heat and dirt generated by 20,000 tourists pouring into the chapel every day has been blamed for the layers of grime accumulating on the paintings, which include Michelangelo's depiction of God giving life to Adam."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," said Paolucci.

They're trying to find a solution that protects the priceless art without getting the public's dander up, understandably. But a visit to the Sistine in September, my first in I don't know how many years, left me feeling like Stazione Termini was a more sacred space. An Italian critic, Pietro Citati, was thinking along similar lines, and he said the Vatican should limit the crowds in the Sistine Chapel to try to restore a sense of decorum.Paolucci said that's not possible or desirable. Maybe. But still ... I found myself wondering if the Chapel shouldn't be restore to purely sacred use, and visitors could worship or observe quietly as they (largely) do in other churches. Yes, the Vatican could never get away with it. But as for the crowds, I say basta! The Mass is a democratic form of snobbery at least; all are welcome, who want to come. And seeing the Sistine used for worship would give a far fuller and truer sense of the purpose of the chapel and the frescoes. If you just want to gander at the images, the Internet offers a far better and more comfortable -- and cheaper -- viewing experience.Okay, that's my "bah, humbug" for this Christmas. I feel better already.H/T: CNN's Belief Blog


Commenting Guidelines

Here, thanks to the folks at Villanova University, is all of the Sistine Chapel anyone needs to see:, frankly, after seeing it that way, I would rather choose a foundry or a NASCAR race as a place for praying. The chapel jangles my nerves.

Over at the PrayTell liturgical blog they're discussing the new Haitian minimalist cathedral. It's almost totally without images or ornamentation of any sort. There's one skinny Cross, not even a crucifix. What would Michelangelo say? It seems to me I read recently that he is being proposed for sainthood. Hmm.Merry Christman, all :-)

My parish church was redone about 15 years ago and we have antiphonal seating, albeit more in a horseshoe shape, not the round. I really like it. As I told someone, I'd rather look at someone's face than the back of their head. It also brings at least 60% of the worshippers much closer to what is taking place at the altar.The church is an older building ca 1901 and it was not designed ad orientem. The priest faced (in those days) the Pacific Ocean. Now, incidently, he IS facing ad orientem.Whippy skip.

Here is an excellent shot of the interior space:

I don't see that as a "bah humbug". Sounds perfectly reasonable to me David.

Maybe they can just ask Cecilia Gimnez to come over and restore the mural/I saw workmen cleaning the ceiling of Grand Central Station years back; they were taking off decades of soot and grime so you could see all of the stars and constellations again. I asked one of the wokrerw what they were using and he said "Simple Green".


About the Author

David Gibson is a national reporter for Religion News Service and author of The Coming Catholic Church (HarperOne) and The Rule of Benedict (HarperOne). He blogs at dotCommonweal.