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

David Gibson is the director of Fordham’s Center on Religion & Culture.

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